Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA
Finding new markets and applications for cotton is becoming a priority for the cotton industry.
Over this summer, this scribe had an opportunity to interact with a few cotton leaders in India and it has become clear that the industry is looking into several factors such as availability of land for food vis-à-vis fiber, demand, cost and competition from synthetics. With higher crop predicted this season in the United States, expected to be largest in 11 years, price and demand factors will play important roles both from production and consumption points of view.
Cotton has derived demand, stated Mr. Suresh Kotak, Chairman of Mumbai-based Kotak Commodities Services, Ltd. With increases in production, a way to enhance the demand is to find new applications and markets. Enabling cotton to be a functional fiber, finding new markets with industrial applications will find new demand. Cotton industry has to enhance its R&D and marketing strategies towards these goals.
New techniques such as genomics can bring about these changes in production, application and economics aspects.
Interestingly, promoting cotton to be a food crop by finding more and added value to its seed may have some benefit. In a brief discussion with this scribe in Mumbai, Vinay Kotak, Director of Kotak Commodities stated that this strategy might work if proper and concerted efforts are made. Instead of marketing cotton seed as a byproduct, by making it main stay, fiber will be a byproduct. This will reduce the price and cotton will be much competitive with polyester. This has to work in sync with finding value-added applications for cotton fiber, such as industrial textiles, so that more demand and market value can be created.
United States’ cotton sector is working towards raising the profile of cotton fiber from being a commodity fiber through its R&D efforts in developing function fabrics out of cotton and focusing its attention on value-added cotton seed applications.