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Priority Issues for the Cotton Sector

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 Seshadri Ramkumar, Professor, Texas Tech University, USA

continentaleaglevisit-april252022Supply-demand situation, soaring prices, quality, contamination aspects, penetration into value-added sectors are priorities that need the attention of stakeholders of the cotton sector. Yesterday (April 25, 2022), a team of key people from Bajaj Coneagle, LLC and its parent company, Nagpur, India-based Bajaj Steel Industries, Ltd., which is a leading manufacturer of cotton ginning machinery visited Lubbock to explore the current cotton sector’s situation and interact with industry people. As part of the visit, I had the opportunity to interact with them to gain information about current cotton situation.

With cotton prices at higher levels, discussions focused on what’s next for the industry. With the current drought conditions in the High Plains of Texas, if this situation persists, it is expected that cotton yields may suffer in the world’s leading cotton producing region, affecting the supply and demand situation, noted Lav Bajaj, Business Director of Bajaj Steel Industries, Ltd., with a sales turnover of about US$60 million related to gin machinery business.

Given such a tight supply situation, competition from synthetics will be high, which necessitates concerted efforts from all stakeholders in the industry. Recently, clarion calls made by the Indian textile industry has made the Government of India suspend import duty on cotton for a specified period.

United States’ cotton sector has established a global name as a producer of consistent quality, which is due to several factors such as machine harvesting, mass scale production, educated producers and the use of technology. This may not be feasible in other regions say India and Africa as farmlands owned by single family farmers range from half an acre to ten acres, which influences the quality. The visiting team from Bajaj Steel Industries, Ltd., agreed and suggested that Indian cotton sector should utilize existing resources such as grassroot level education, effective utilization of farm Apps to follow good agronomy practices and marketing. Efforts must focus on quality grades and seed variety selection stated Shankar Venkatachalam, President of Bajaj Coneagle, LLC. It is time for India to look into saw gin revolution, added Shankar Venkatachalam. This will enhance quality and hence yarn realization in spinning mills.

Agreeing with the current tight supply situation, mills will expect high quality cotton at reasonable price, stated Velmurugan Shanmugam, General Manager of Aruppukkottai, India-based Jayalakshmi Textiles, which annually consumes about 7000 tons of cotton and produces 4800 tons of fine count cotton yarns. In countries like India, it is important that government, textile, and cotton industry aim towards individual bale classification to achieve quality consistency and reliability, added Velmurugan Shanmugam. In India, cotton is traded at the farm level based on length and mills while purchasing conduct thorough quality evaluation using HVI instrumentation depending on the size and requirement of individual mills. Quality evaluation at single bale level is needed which was expressed by the Bajaj team as well as textile mill representatives like Velmurugan Shanmugam.

Contamination at gin level such as plastics, quality consistency and effective utilization of technology and creating more awareness at farm level should receive priority attention. More importantly, effective management decisions by the stakeholders, given the tight supply of cotton will be the need of the hour, say cotton purchasing and stocking decisions.

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