The All India Kisan Sabha has urged the Centre to reinstate import duties on cotton to avoid inflow of cheap cotton from China, Brazil and the US.

AIKS leaders Hannan Mollah and Ashok Dhawle charged in a statement here on Thursday that the decision of the Centre to exempt cotton imports from customs duties was taken at the behest of corporate textile companies

The leaders said the cotton belt in the country witnesses the most number of suicides by farmers in distress. "Cotton imports were being taxed at about 11 percent, including cess and surcharges. This move comes without ensuring assured remunerative prices and procurement of cotton grown by farmers in India. It is likely to lead to an inflow of cheap cotton from China, Brazil United States of America and other places. In the absence of an effective procurement and a price stabilisation fund to ward off adverse impact of such inflow on prices, this could lead to a further burden on the crisis-ridden cotton farmers in our country," they said in the statement.

The AIKS questioned the Government's claim that the move is to help the textile industry cope with the raw material shortages. "The Finance Ministry says that the scrapping of import duties was necessitated due to lower than expected yields and surge in domestic cotton prices. On the pretext that the move is to ease the pressure on domestic textile industries’ export competitiveness, it goes on to the unfounded claim that it would also provide relief to the consumers. It is a well-known fact that the big corporate textile industries never transfer benefits of cheaper raw materials to consumers as they are driven only by the motive of profit maximisation," Mollah and Dhawle claimed in the statement.

They added that the decision will spell disaster for the cotton farmers who already are in acute crisis and unable to realise remunerative prices. "There is no protection guaranteed to the cotton farmer in the form of assured procurement at remunerative prices at least one and a half times the cost of production as of now. Inflow of raw cotton will lead to a further crash in prices and in absence of effective price stabilisation; the burden of such crashes will fall on the poor farmers of India. This is the experience when import duty of raw silk was done away with," they said and urged the BJP Government to reinstate import duties on cotton and make arrangements to procure farmers’ produce at remunerative prices.