BEIJING, Feb 2 - Farmers in China, the world's top consumer of cotton, plan to grow less this year as lower returns shift more acreage to grains and fruits instead, a survey by an influential academy showed on Tuesday.
Cotton areas in 2010 were likely to fall by 4.9 percent from 2009 to about 4.78 million hectares, according to the survey polling nearly 4,000 cotton farmers in 16 major growing provinces by the China Cotton Research Institute.
Lower output in China, the world's largest importer, could prompt more imports next year. China has already increased import quotas this year after domestic output fell by more than 10 percent last year. [ID:nTOE5BL083]
"The government stockpile of 2.72 million tonnes of cotton from farmers has resolved their difficulty in selling their harvest, but failed to boost their incomes," the report posted on China Cotton Association's website (www.china-cotton.org) said.
Higher input costs have given farmers 20 percent less in returns as compared with grains. Grain farmers benefit more from Beijing's subsidies, it said.
Farmers whose planting areas account for one percent of the country's total acreage, largely in provinces along the Yellow River, have not decided, the survey showed.
In Xinjiang, the country's largest cotton area, farmers have already shifted large cotton fields to grow fruits, which can generate much higher returns, it said.
The institute urged Beijing to raise cotton subsidies to promote planting of high-yield seeds and take measures to reduce labour costs.
China's cotton imports in 2009 fell 28 percent to 1.5 million tonnes, of which 40 percent came from the United States. A decline in textile exports amid the global economic slowdown was blamed for the drop in imports.