Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cotton area down 11.6% this year

The Ministry of Agriculture held its cotton work conference in Beijing on April 1. With lower textile exports, plunging prices, and "pressure from imported cotton," farmers are not eager to plant cotton this year. The MOA's planting survey shows that cotton area will be down 11.6% this year. The article on the conference describes the situation as "grim", but the 5.1 million hectares forecast for this year is about the same as 2005 and roughly the historical average since 1949. Why do Chinese officials think the country needs to produce so much cotton? The country has been using massive amounts of cotton that was turned into blue jeans that landed on shelves of the Gap and Wal-Mart in the rest of the world. Now it's back to reasonable levels. This is not a problem; we're getting back to sanity.

Nevertheless, "facing the current grim situation," MOA vice minister Wei Chao'an emphasized the need to raise this year’s cotton production. Cotton seedlings are already emerging and now is the time to implement policies in all regions, "transferring intentions to the field." This year the State spread its quality seed subsidy for cotton from 8 provinces last year to 25 this year, covering 33.33 million mu (2.22 mil ha). Each region must formulate an implementation plan, scientifically ascertain the varieties for subsidy, earnestly implement the subsidy, and strengthen cotton seed market supervision.

This year MOA will set up 200 10,000-mu demonstration fields in 198 advantaged cotton counties with 150,000 mu or more of planted area and develop high yield cotton development programs. Each region should learn from the best practices of raising grain yields, multi-level development high yield creation. Presently, thin density is a problem facing hybrid cotton, preventing high yield. A hybrid cotton increased density program will start this year. The plan is to increase the number of stalks per mu by 500 to reach 2000 stalks per mu, close to the 2200 achieved in high-yield demonstration fields. At the same time an emphasis will be on spreading disease-resistant varieties, strengthening cotton pest and disease forecasting and disseminating specialized disease and pest control methods.

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