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Rediff.com  » Business » Textile exporters to bank on 'organic' cotton

Textile exporters to bank on 'organic' cotton

September 24, 2007 12:26 IST
Paras Jain, who exports textiles to US retail chains like Linens-N-Things and Laura Ashley, is one of the many exporters planning to grow organic cotton as the growing 'green conscience' in the west leads to a rise in the demand for the product.

"People want to wear clothes that have not been made by using any agri-chemical," says Jain, who owns Shell Exports and wants to grow a unique cotton variety, Kalyan, which used to be cultivated in the Kutch region 30-40 years ago.

Jain has already bought about 50 acres in Kutch and is talking with a Netherlands-based organic cotton certifying firm, SCALL, for developing the variety.

"The Kalyan cotton doesn't require water and grows on dew drops," says Jain. Due to increased rainfall and changing environment, the variety lost its appeal over the years.

Forthcoming global regulations, which may ban toxic agricultural chemicals and genetically engineered products, point to the need to develop practical and sustainable ways to grow cotton. Jain is clearly on the right track.

The production of organic cotton has been growing and is expected to cross 10,000 million tonnes by 2008. India, thanks to people like Jain, is the second largest producer of organic cotton, which globally accounts for 31.71 per cent of the total production of clean cotton.

According to reports by Organic Exchange, a California based non-profit organisation which promotes organic cotton, India produced about 9,835 tonnes organic cotton in 2005-06. This has built up over the last decade. Untreated seeds are used to grow organic cotton and instead of chemicals, the crop is exposed to bio-fertilisers like cow-dung.

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have taken a lead in this, but industry experts say Gujarat, which produces 36 per cent of the country's cotton, has a huge potential.

Despite being the number one cotton producing state, the cotton-based textile industry has not picked up in Gujarat. In 2006-07, the state produced 10.4 million bales of cotton, worth Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion).

Hardly 10 per cent of the total cotton produced in the state is consumed locally as most textile units, barring a few in Ahmedabad and Surat, have closed down during the past two decades. About 90 per cent of the cotton produced here is either exported or sold in the textile towns of South India.

The Gujarat government doesn't give sops to textile units, says a manufacturer in Kutch. Jain says the government, unlike in other states, is not too keen on giving support. He cites the example of Tamil Nadu, where the government has approved the "marriage plan" proposed by the textile manufacturing units, giving a major boost to the industry. Under the plan, the textiles firms recruit single women aged between 18 years and 21 years on contract for three years.

Sapna Dogra Singh in Kandla
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