India, the largest producer of organic cotton in the world is losing over green cotton. After seen rapid growth for organic cotton from 2006-2010, it is production began sliding downwards. From 2011 onwards not only India but globally there has been a fall in organic cotton production. Indiaâ€™s organic fibre production being export dependent has dropped close to 50% with global brands shifting to Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
BCI is growing rapidly and getting premium over the traditional cotton, as it is less expensive than organic and does not have issues like integrity involved in organic, the international brands have moved to BCI. Moreover, International brands and retailers are willing to invest more in green cotton because cotton crop cultivation is highly polluting.
The first harvest of BCI cotton took place in 2010-11 in India, Pakistan, Mali and Brazil.
Arvind, the textile conglomerate based in Gujarat is one of the main players in organic cotton in India, too has shifted its focus to BCI. It started the BCI project in 2010. Today it has 47,000 acre under BCI and 50,000 acre under organic cotton. Ginners get a premium for BCI cotton as compared to organic. Currently, BCI is being sold at 500/candy more than the organic cotton as the demand for it is high.
Mahesh Ramakrishnan, head, agri-business division of Arvind said that the price of organic cotton has become too high for the end consumer due to multiple costs of certification. The high cost of certification is moving brands away from organic variety. At every step right from growing and ginning to spinning, till the product reaches end user certification has to be done. For BCI , only bale-level traceability is important.
For growers, standards for organic cotton are too tough to follow in comparison to BCI standard which is easier and less expensive to follow as it begins with minimum standards related to water conservation, chemical use etc.
Currently, the biggest challenge faced by organic cotton growers is to get non-Bt cotton seeds. Nearly 98% of the cotton area in India is under Bt cotton. BCI is neutral to GM technology which covers environmental, economic and social aspects. The farmer growing BCI cotton have to use micro irrigation to save water and adopt integrated pest management practices.
According to Mrunal Lahankar, certification manager at Chetna Organic Agricultural Producer Company, Hyderabad based they too has observed a decline of about 30% in area under organic cotton due to non-availability of non-GMO seeds and the pricing issues.
Though BCI cotton does not fetch farmerâ€™s higher price, the corporates claim that they end up getting 15% to 25% higher price than the market rate as the fibre crop is procured at the farm gate saving transportation cost and mundi costs of the farmer.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a not-for-profit organisation stewarding the global standards for Better Cotton, and bringing together cottonâ€™s complex supply chain, from the farmers to the retailers. BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and for better sectorâ€™s future.
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