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Unlocking India’s cotton potential needs more focus on seeds, production

"In stark contrast to being crowned as the largest cotton producer in the world in the crop year (CY) 2015-16, India’s cotton production fared poorly in CY 2018-19 due to a 20 per cent rainfall deficit. The country’s production declined last year too by around 11 per cent over decadal average cotton production of 352 lakh bales."

 

Unlocking Indias cotton potential needs more focus on seeds productionIn stark contrast to being crowned as the largest cotton producer in the world in the crop year (CY) 2015-16, India’s cotton production fared poorly in CY 2018-19 due to a 20 per cent rainfall deficit. The country’s production declined last year too by around 11 per cent over decadal average cotton production of 352 lakh bales.

Increasing awareness about quality alongwith a widespread use of hybrid seeds, led to the growth of Indian cotton exports until CY 2017-18. However, lower crop estimates pushed Indian cotton millers to import raw materials in 2018-19, which were recorded to be highest in the last decade. Even stocks hit a new low at 13 lakh bales, which was a third of the decadal closing stock of 38 lakh bales.

Quality seeds, better agronomic practices to push yield

Cotton productivity in India has peaked and pulling the country out of this slump requires long-term efforts. ForUnlocking Indias cotton potential needs more focus on seeds this, cotton cultivators need to first procure good quality cotton seeds with features like drought tolerance, pest resistance, etc. Secondly, they should adopt better agronomic practices such as high-quality planting of short duration varieties. This will increase their yields to about 29 per cent via lower exposure to pest attack, efficient use of water and other inputs while also suppressing weeds. They should also adopt sound management practices such as in-situ soil and water conservation with bunds, integrated pest management, soil fertility testing and management, drip irrigation, etc.

Focus on high staple length cotton

To augment cotton production and provide cotton fiber of desire length, farmers need to grow cotton varieties of high staple length. They should also adopt better harvesting and post-harvest management practices which will eliminate contamination, ensuring production and recovery of good quality of cotton that meets the requirements of domestic consumption as well as exports. Their use of commodity derivatives platforms either directly or through aggregators will help these farmers lock in their prices and create quality awareness.

Private and public sector agencies can also aid farmers by making available their desire quality of seeds at subsidised rates. As farmers get ready to sow their new crop in the next few years, they need to adopt several remedial measures to reclaim India’s position as the top cotton producer in the world.

 
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