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Call to decentralise cotton textile production
Aug '15
Uzramma, founder of Dastkar Andhra, a public charitable trust that promotes artisan industries suited to ownership by the primary producers, has called for the decentralisation of cotton textile production chain to benefit farmers.

She said the absence of affordable technology that can turn indigenous cotton into textile is one of the main reasons for cotton farmers' suicide in the country, the media quoted her as saying.

Delivering a talk on handmade fabrics and process at a seminar titled 'Malkha: Birth of a New Fabric' at the Jiddu Krishnamurti Centre in Hyderabad, Ms Uzramma, a noted exponent of the handloom industry, said farmers are forced to grow only a specific variant of cotton suited for spinning mills. Indigenous varieties of cotton that had earned India the reputation of a cotton-producing nation in the past have virtually become extinct, she said.

She highlighted the plight of farmers who had to abandon local varieties of cotton to accommodate the 'machine-friendly' American BT cotton, a genetically modified variety sold by the American agrochemical company, Monsanto. “The technology we use for yarn spinning is not related to what needs to be used,” she said.

“The technology used today for cotton spinning has nothing to do with the technology that was used before the industrial revolution in India. The finest cotton of the time is not strong enough for the machine process which needs only one type of cotton. As a result, many variants of cotton went extinct in the country,” Uzramma said.

She explained that the cotton grown today is not best suited for Indian conditions.

Indian variants in the past were rain-fed and not dependent on irrigation, besides being grown interspersed with other food crops.

When current generation of crops fail after farmers make big investments on buying seeds and paying for irrigation, they are driven to suicide.

“We need to develop a new kind of technology that will enable us to grow cotton that is not as high-risk as BT cotton.” She added that indigenous seeds can be multiplied, but she is skeptical whether the present machinery is suitable for it. “American cotton is more prone to pests, yet, because of the machines used, farmers are forced into debts in order to buy BT cotton seeds each year.".

She stressed on the need to alter the entire supply chain. “The whole supply chain needs to be changed. Local varieties of cotton were traditionally grown interspersed with legumes so that it doesn't defeat the soil. However, growing American cotton is not feasible for India,” Uzramma said.

She also cited environmental reasons. “In view of the environmental changes, it should be noted that hand-weaving creates a very low carbon footprint and is thus eco-friendly,” she said.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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