Cotton, the golden fibre has lost its sheen after the closure of the Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC). Production might slide below 300 lakh bales in the absence of immediate policy intervention by the government, said M Senthilkumar, Chairman of the Southern India Millsâ€™ Association (SIMA).
The association has drawn the attention of Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani to the present situation, besides advocating bringing back the TMC in a revised format. A few States have already started advising farmers to avoid cultivation of cotton due to uncertainty in production.
Industry sources further contend that the Union Agriculture Ministry and the agricultural departments of various State governments do not give adequate importance to cotton. A declining trend in production, productivity and quality is an offshoot of this development, Senthilkumar said, pointing out how countries such as Australia, the US, Brazil, Turkey and China ramped up their yield to more than 1,500 kg/hectare.
J Thulasidharan, President, Indian Cotton Federation said that the existing Bt technology that helped India increase its cotton yield potential expired a few years back. Farmers are suffering due to technology obsolescence.
The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) has developed 21 varieties of desi cotton that yielded excellent results. Farmers who meticulously followed the instituteâ€™s (cultivation) practices managed to increase their income two-fold. But the scientists could not make further progress due to paucity in fund allocation, reiterating the need for a TMC in a revised format.
Thulasidharan referring to crop duration said that they will need to focus on short duration (140-160 days) varieties and follow best practices that primarily would depend on the local climate, varietal adaptability, soil type and nutrient status, major insects and pests and, of course, market demand. The critical reproductive phase has been compressed in many countries, but India continues to have a long critical window. This should therefore be their first consideration.
Meanwhile, it is reliably learnt that a committee has already been constituted and report preparation work is under way on TMC II with the help of CICR, the industry, and other stakeholders.
Industry sources said that such a mission would help double the income of the cotton farmer and fuel the growth of the textile industry.
Indian cotton productivity dropped below 500 kg of lint/hectare in 2015-16, largely due to pink boll worm infestation, from a high of 566 kg/hec in 2013-14. The productivity during 2016-17 appears to have bounced back to touch a record level of 568 kg/hec and sources attribute this to good monsoon this season as compared to the last.
On the other hand, the national average yield in Australia, Brazil, China, Turkey Mexico and Israel is more than 1,500 kg/hec. Indiaâ€™s poor productivity is attributed to obsolete technology and insufficient fund support for cotton research
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