The Central Government, in its wisdom has slapped a 11 percent import duty on cotton. The fact, however, remains that it does not protect anyone. Rather it has harmed the textile industry. The masure will only add to its costs and reduce profitability. Industry leaders have been demanding exemption of the duty to allow imports without any hassles but of no avail. Imports of Extra Long Staple cotton (ELS) – which are not produced domestially are required by industry – approximately 10-15 lakh bales a year. Thus, a levy which does not benefit any segment of the industry is being continued. Experts term it a “retrograde” step.
It is well known that nearly 70 percent of ELS cotton required by the industry is not produced locally. So imports are justified. Experience shows that resort to imports also faces serious problems. For instance imports from say, Africa, where shippers demand a premium on fright. In countries such as Australia, imports are allowed duty free. In India exports of cotton are allowed without any levies after fullfilling the formalities.
There are varying estimate of production and consumption by several bodies in this country, perhaps each one wanting to greatly benefit from them. Union Department of Agriculture projects production during the current season (October 2022 – September 2023) at about 337 lakh bales, Cotton Association of India at 310 Lakh bales and the
Committee on cotton production and consumption at 337 lakh bales. Then there is a traders Association which always projects lower production estimate in order to jack up prices and reap the benefits. In the last season (2021-22) total production was estimated at about 310 lakh bales. Another estimate puts production at 290 lakh bales and consumption including exports at 310 lakh bales.
When we talk about cotton, let as not forget about the contribution made by the technology Mission on Cotton (TMC). The fall out of the TMC has been phenomenal. The cotton output was substantially up from 178 lakh bales in 1999 to 398 lakh bales in 2013- 14. Also, area under cotton rose steeply from 91 mn hectare to 128 mn hectare during the period TMC was in operation, accounting for 36 to 38 percent of the global cotton average. After closure of TMC productivity dropped below 500 kg per hectare from 580 kg per hectare and annual cotton output fell below 340 lakh bales from 398 lakh bales and may go below 300 lakh bales, in the absence of any policy intervention by the government.
It is in this context, the new National mission to enhance farmers income assumes great significance A 61 page prepared by Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Central Institute for Cotton Research (Nagpur) says farmers “income can be enhanced by increasing yields or by reduction in costs or both provided the market demand remains sustainable. Appropriate technologies are needed for the purpose.
More than 90 percent of the 10 to 13 mn hectare are saturated. However, yields on an average of 500 kg lint per hectare were stagnant for more than a decade and are now on a declining trend dispite access to all the technological advances.
With the new alternative system of high density (HD) planting with new short duration varieties of BT varieties and Desi varieties etc., there is hope that yields can be easily doubled and costs reduced significantly “It is only a matter of time and concentrated efforts for the country to emerge as a global leader in cotton productivity in a sustainable manner” the paper says. According to its analysis, India’s low cotton yields is because of long derivation, how harvest index and low ginning outputs.
The paper has proposed mini-mission I and mini-mission II. The former aims at validation and enhancement of global practices for adaptability under Indian conditions. The letter seeks implementation of practices for doubling farm income and the project is for a period of 3 years.
The high density planting (HD) systems are being implemented in seven states with 20000 to 28000 per hectare for which funding is given. The ICAR – CICR spear headed the HDBC programe in India to domonstrate high yields with low input costs with short duration varieties. All the countries that have yields higher than 1000 kg/hectare are known to have been following the high density approach. Subsidy of Rs.10000 is given for HD plants.
It is recommended that Rs.10,000 crore be allotted for cotton development under mini-mission II and seed technology under mini-mission I. A thrust on agro-economic research is called for.
The paper notes that cotton is extremely sensitive to excess moisture and water stagnation could reduce yields in heavy, textured seeds. Drainage of excess water is crucial for a good crop.
Many of the global best practices have evolved over several years of hard work carried out by scientists of the respective countries. These practices were mostly possible. Many of the practices may not be suitable for other countries. However, the basic principles of “Best Practices” that provide high yields are based on ecology environment and substainability.
Cotton production systems are very different in India compared to all other countries. Long duration cotton is the best way to get higher yields. The paper advocates that big plants are better than small ones. Hybrid cotton gives higher yields than pure line varities.
Everything is different in India. All the differences in crop production practices of India with the rest of the world are related to one major policy factor – hybrid cotton. India is now saturated with hybrid cotton.
Efforts were made from 1970 to develop high-yielding hybrids. In 30 years of intensive efforts about 30 new intra hirsutum – hybrids were released for commercial cultivation and the are under cotton hybrids reached 38-40 percent by 2000. With the introduction of Bt-cotton in hybrids, the area under hybrid cotton reached 95 percent by 2011.
Basic Difference in Production Practices
The following aspects related to hybrid cotton are unique to India and differ completely with many advanced countries as listed in the table below.