Indian cotton belts have remained infamous for farmer suicides for years, especially the rural areas of Vidarbha in the state of Maharashtra. According to the Accidental Deaths and Suicides report published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of farmer suicides in the country stood at 5,650 in 2014. Out of this, 2,568 farmer suicides were reported in Maharashtra.
The prominent reasons for farmer suicides were reported to be bankruptcy or indebtedness and failure of crop among others. Some 33.4 per cent of farmer suicides in Maharashtra were due to bankruptcy or indebtedness. About 53.1 per cent of small farmer suicides (holding 1 hectare to below 2 hectares of land) and 39.7 per cent of marginal farmer suicides (having less than 1 hectare of land) of the total farmer suicides in the two mentioned classifications were reported to have taken place in Maharashtra in 2014.
Such alarming suicide rates among cotton farmers in Maharashtra, especially in Vidarbha, call for urgent preventive measures. The preventive measures lie either in farmers opting out of cotton farming in entirety or in farmers opting out of the variety of cotton they produce (the latter being a more lucrative option as the practicing farmers have been into agriculture for years). A better variety of cotton that can give the desired returns to farmers economically would be organic cotton.
Estimates and projections state that the demand for organic cotton would increase manifold in the near future. Alison Ward, CEO of Cotton Connect told Fibre2Fashion.com, “There is a global increase in the demand for organic cotton, and if projections are correct, organic production will need to expand five-fold to meet projected demands by 2020. There are several market opportunities in sustainable and organic cotton.” Her source for this claim was a Textile Exchange report.
Textile Exchange in its Organic Cotton Market Report – 2015 claimed that the global organic cotton market value increased by 67 per cent in 2015, bringing the estimated value to US$ 15.7 billion. The report claimed that owing to increasing market demand the production of organic cotton globally increased by 10 per cent this year after the past three years of decline. This growth in its market share is a result of the increase in demand from brands and retailers.
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