Pure cotton cotton blends
the autonomous Cotton Textile and Export Promotion Council,reassures that measures have been thought of to deal with this volatility.“We are looking at other emerging markets like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar to make up for the deficit. While cotton might have taken a hit, export of value-added products like yarn and fabrics will see a rise,” he says.
However,it is unlikely that new markets will be able to make up for the deficit created by China’s lack of demand. P T Pillevar, chief general manager of the Cotton Corporation of India (cci), responsible for price support operations of cotton under the Ministry of Textiles, says, “We already procured 0.3 million tonnes of cotton from farmers between October and December 2014 at a minimum support price (msp) of 4,050 for the long, staple
` variety.” This is just the beginning. usda estimates suggest that this year cci might procure close to 0.8 million tonnes of cotton to support farmers in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where market prices are below msp.The fact that cci has stepped in to purchase cotton from farmers shows that cotton producers are already going into losses in the open market.
Kavitha Kuruganti, convenor of Association for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, says, “My conversations with farmers indicate that msp for cotton will be
500-1,000 less than last year. It was ` predictable that this situation would arise because China had been stockpiling.But we made no provisions to safeguard our farmers. The ultimate burden of this market fluctuation will be borne by the small farmers.” Under such circumstances, the push to increase cotton production in the country makes little sense. Kuruganti adds that the government must stop making decisions solely in favour of industry without protecting the producers. DESPITE THE turmoil in the international and domestic markets, the word on the street is that cotton is still doing very well. Three store owners in Pune, who deal in pure cotton, blended fabrics and synthetic materials, claim that close to 50 per cent of their sales still come from cotton. Bharat Banthia, owner of Deepak Readymade Stores in the city, says, "There are customers for both cotton and synthetic materials, but people often prefer cotton because it is a comfortable fabric, looks good and has a rich feel to it. However, cotton blended with small amounts of synthetic fibre is almost 40 per cent cheaper than pure cotton and lasts about three years, so it is in
Shashi Chabria, owner of Sharmilee Store in Pune, reiterates that the sale of cotton items has not gone down because of blended fabrics. Cotton will always remain a staple in our wardrobe, even when fashion and fabrics change, he adds.
While most people prefer to wear pure cotton, it may not be the best option for Indian weather. In India, the best mix is a cotton-polyester blend in the ratio of 70:30. This mix has the best of both materials—cotton's comfort and polyester's durability, says Seema Patel, technical manager in the textile testing laboratory at the Ahmedabad Textile Industry's Research Association.
While farmers are bearing the brunt of falling prices, the fate of textile mills and affiliated industries does not look promising either. “We had been exporting a large portion of our cotton produce to China, but since it is not buying, there will be a surplus and prices are bound to fall,” says R K Dalmiya, president of Century Textiles, a cotton mill in Gujarat. Textile owners do not prefer buying cotton from cci as they cannot be sure of quality at cci auctions.“Contamination with coloured threads or materials like polypropylene is already a major concern,” Dalmiya adds.
Another problem is the plummeting cost of artificial fibres like polyester due to the fall in global petroleum prices. “Cotton is not the only thing we should look at. We are trying to promote and market more blended fabrics and polyester-cotton mix exports. This will ease the pressure on the textile industry,”Rajagopal says (see ‘Pure cotton v cotton blends’).
America's covert agenda
The US, however, is manipulating India to opt for pure cotton, not blends. An ad campaign by the Cotton Council International urges consumers to “check the label” on apparel to ensure they buy 100 per cent cotton.The ad tells Indians to go back to the basics, because “we have been spinning, weaving and dying it since ancient times”.
What is hidden is that the Council is the export promotion arm of the National Cotton Council of America “dedicated to increasing US exports of cotton, cottonseed and their products”. An expert on textiles, who does not wish to be named, reveals this is part of the US’ strategy to ensure that cotton produced in India is consumed here itself, leaving other markets to the US. Cotton Council International did not respond to repeated queries from Down To Earth about its campaign.
The Indian government has been aggressively pushing cotton production in the past two decades. Given the current vagaries of the market, it is time to re-think this strategy, focusing instead on protecting farmers and reducing the acreage under cotton to more sustainable and remunerative farming. India must ensure that it is not given the short end of the stick in the international market.
The US is covertly trying to persuade India to opt for pure cotton instead of cotton blends, which are cheaper, more durable and have a good international demand. By doing this, the US wants to retain a larger share of the global cotton market