Agri Business

Cotton Corp to stress on quality as it readies for record procurement

Mamuni Das TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on October 22, 2018

CCI is in the process of empowering its field staff with tools that will help determine cotton quality, right from procurement, increase transparency and help fetch the right price for the fibre   -  K M Dayashankar

The move will bolster India’s reputation as a source of better-quality cotton, besides fetching a premium price for the fibre

Amid silent protests from industry, the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) has embarked on the largest ever cotton procurement programme, projecting an ambitious target-buy of 100 lakh bales in the just-commenced cotton season (October 2018-September 2019).

This year, CCI is scripting a paradigm shift by insisting that sellers in the country meet a set of quality parameters to market their produce. No doubt, the move, if successful, will bolster India’s reputation as a source of better quality cotton globally, and probably fetch the commodity a premium price that many rival countries command in the international markets. But, the move doesn’t come without its teething troubles.

After it decided to up the quality parameters, CCI — the nodal agency for procuring cotton at the MSP levels — had to issue four rounds of tender to finalise ginning contracts, with the first few receiving tepid to no response.

Upping the ante

This prompted CCI to relax some of the quality norms after discussions with ginners and scientists, and a high level committee that had fixed the quality parameters. Subsequently, CCI engaged Principal Agriculture Secretaries of State governments — including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana — to make the procurement a success, officials confirmed.

“It is a good thing that we have started stressing on the quality aspect. Quality, not quantity, should be more on our focus,” CD Mayee, cotton scientist and former Director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, told BusinessLine. However, market experts understood the rationale of ginning industry’s lack-lustre response to the move. “The ginning process in India is mostly done ‘manually’ by small family businesses which could result in certain quality issues as compared to ‘international markets’ where the entire process of procuring raw cotton is automated,” said Hetal Gandhi, Director-Research at rating agency CRISIL.

From ‘kapas’ to ‘kapda’

Ginning is the process of converting raw cotton into bales. CCI procures raw cotton or kapas from farmers by paying them the MSP directly. Then it gets the kapas ginned and pressed — process of separating the seeds from cotton — into bales. For converting cotton to bales, it issues tenders for ginning and pressing. These bales are then acquired by spinners for processing and finally sold to textile sector.

CCI appoints ginners at a price (per quintal) through tenders. This time, it has set the prices based on various quality norms of cotton. These quality parameters were decided by a high level committee comprising CCI officials, and a scientist from the CICR.

The committee fixed tender conditions based on percentage of lint (useful material) and seed (waste material) extracted from cotton, rain or weather conditions, variety of cotton (length) and locality. “Parameters such as ‘out-turn’ have been introduced in MSP programme for the first time,” an official said.

Out-turn is a productivity parameter that takes into account the percentage of lint and seeds extracted from cotton. The lint extraction from cotton ranges from 26 to 40 per cent per bale — with 40 per cent being considered extremely good quality cotton. Most of the cotton procured in India has 30-35 per cent out-turn.

“There is a lot of scope for improving the out-turn ratio of Indian cotton as well as controlling moisture levels during the processes of compressing, baling and ginning,” Mayee of the CICR said.

Readying quality testers

Meanwhile, to aid the largest ever MSP procurement, CCI is in the process of empowering its field staff with tools that will help determine quality of cotton, right from procurement stage, and ultimately increase transparency and help fetch the right price for the fibre. The tools include moisture-meters to measure moisture content, micronaires to measure fineness of cotton, and mini-gins that will measure the out-turn.

“The equipments have been tendered for and their availability will depend on how soon the supplies come in from the selected manufacturers. Currently, moisture meters and digital billing systems have already been put in place,” CCI’s Chairman and Managing Director P Allirani said.

These moisture meters are being digitally linked to CCI’s central server. This will prevent any doubts on the data quality. The field officers simply poke a moisturemeter into the cotton bale randomly, the moisture content is captured and data transmitted to the central computer.

Published on October 19, 2018

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