Stagnated yields, rising consumption may make India cotton deficient

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on October 12, 2021

CCI CMD, industry veteran among experts calling for quick measures to increase yield

With the country witnessing low cotton yields over the past few years, India might soon become deficient in cotton, according to industry experts who took part in a webinar held by the Cotton Association of India (CAI) recently. “Let us painfully accept that India suffers chronically from severe stagnation in cotton yields,” said a veteran cotton expert and industry doyen, Suresh Kotak at the webinar.

India’s average cotton yield of around 530 kg per hectare is in stark contrast to about 1,500 kg achieved by some of the advanced countries such as Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Turkey among others.

Kotak called for an introspection on production techniques, and stressed on the development of integrated crop management technology with a blend of drip irrigation and fertilisation - fertigation - for improved water management. This is deemed necessary as nearly 60% of India's cotton area is under rainfed conditions. “During flowering and fruiting period, Indian cotton remains famished. When it needs the nutrition, our current system and agronomics don’t provide it. We have to look at converting the plant growth into vegetative growth,” said Kotak.

Also read: New textile policy must focus on leveraging cotton’s strengths

Expressing concerns over India’s persistently lower cotton yields, J Thulasidharan, President, Indian Cotton Federation (ICF), said, “The yield has been stagnant or falling in last few years. If it doesn’t improve, India will become a cotton deficient nation in the next 6-7 years,” he said.

Since Independence, India’s cotton area and yield has jumped multifold from 43 lakh hectares and 70 kg in 1947 to 133 lakh hectares and over 500 kg yield at present with about 80 lakh farmers growing cotton.

Importing technology

Pradeep Kumar Agarwal, CMD, Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), pointed out a steady growth in consumption against a near steady production. “Soon we may touch 350-360 lakh bales of consumption. At this rate India is nearing to become a (cotton) deficient country. So, there is a dire need to think on increasing production,” said Agarwal. He suggested importing technology and technical know-how on better cotton production techniques from the advanced countries. “We need to approach the government to borrow their technology to develop short-duration high-yield varieties,” added Agarwal.

Further, the CCI CMD called for cultivating better and uniform varieties on larger areas. “Earlier the concept was of one-village, one-variety, which has confused farmers on which variety to sow. We need to expand it to one-district, one-variety or one-state, one-variety, for a uniform quality,” he said.

In order to bring a focused policy support for cotton, Kotak suggested creation of a unified cotton body named National Cotton Board on the lines of US’ National Cotton Development Board. “One additional bale of cotton produced can generate 5 jobs,” Kotak added.

“The textiles sector looks at cotton yield improvement closely as an increse in yield will not just help farmers but will also make textile industry competitive globally,” said Chairman of CITI, T Rajkumar.

Published on October 12, 2021

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