Interview with MM Chockalingam
MM Chockalingam
MM Chockalingam
Chairman & Managing Director
Cotton Corporation of India
Cotton Corporation of India

What are the major challenges faced by cotton growers across India? What needs to be done to overcome these challenges?

Major challenges faced by cotton growers across India and possible remedy for the same are as under:
1. Vagaries of nature: About two-third area under cotton in the country is rain fed with poor irrigation facilities exposing production to monsoon fluctuations. Thus, dependency on weather vagaries is the biggest challenge for Indian cotton farmers.
Possible remedies for this problem are -
  • Improving irrigation facilities and water harnessing is considered imperative for enhancing production and lowering its dependence on monsoon. Drip irrigation system may be popularised for better water management.
  • Initiatives may be taken to increase awareness among farmers for adoption of rain water harvesting, soil moisture conservation techniques and suitable agronomic practices in order to increase the utilisation of rain water.
  • Farmer crop insurance is another remedy for this problem.
2. Small land holdings: Most of the farmers in India have small land holdings. These Farmers are generally capital starved and cannot make major investment in land improvement and modern inputs due to rising cost of production of seeds, fertilizers, labour i.e. input costs.
Possible solution for this could be -
  • Land pooling and contract farming on the basis of 'one village, one variety' concept will not only decrease the input costs, but will also increase the quality and yield of cotton and thereby income of the cotton farmers.
  • Besides above steps, introduction of mechanical picking system will further reduce cost of production.
3. Non availability of quality cotton seed at reasonable prices: More than 7,000 varieties of cotton seed hybrids are available in India and farmers are not aware which is better for sowing in their farm causing sometime crop failure problems and increase in input costs.
This problem can be tackled using below solutions -
  • Cotton seed distribution act should be amended in such a way that farmers may be able to get only certified seeds at reasonable prices.
  • As there was no uniformity in pricing of cotton seeds across the country, the government, ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare (Department of Agriculture, Cooperation And Farmers Welfare) intervened in this matter and issued a Cotton Seed Price (Control) Order, 2015 under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 in order to safeguard the interests of the farming community and to regulate Bt cotton seed prices. Besides this, some state governments had also passed legislations to ensure supply of truthful cotton seeds to farmers.

4. Pest attack: Over  the  past  40  years,  the cotton crop  in  India  suffered  the  most  due  to  insect attacks. A range of insects such as aphids, jassids, whiteflies, mealy bugs, thrips, armyworms, hairy caterpillars, semi-loopers, Spodoptera, American bollworm, pink bollworm, spotted bollworm etc. have been ravaging cotton again and again, causing hardship to the cotton farmers.

Possible remedy is - 
In order to control the problem of pests and insecticide usage, National Centre for Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM) of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) are making essential and pragmatic efforts for promoting environmentally sound integrated pest management technologies with the help of all India coordinated crop improvement programmes, crop research institutes; SAUs; environment and bio technology departments of the government for implementation of its programmes. The effort needs to be extended to avoid hardship to cotton farmers.

5. Technical know-how: Farmers did not know the technical know-how to produce cotton and market cotton with minimum trash and contamination. Among nations growing cotton, cotton picking is completely manual in India which leads to contamination at farm level. Labour cost for picking cotton from the farm has increased causing cotton farming less remunerative.

Possible solutions for this problem are -
  • Steps may be taken to provide necessary support to cotton farmers through training for best farm practices and promotion of indigenous technology for fast cotton picking.
  • Cotton Research Institutes under the ministry of agriculture are doing various R&D activities, high density planting, production of desi hybrids etc. Besides this, Mini Mission-I & II of Technology Mission on cotton is being implemented by the department of agriculture & cooperation (DAC) with extension and development activities related to cotton research and transfer of technology, which helped the cotton farmers in improving the production and quality of cotton, besides increasing the yield per hectare by reducing the cost of cultivation.
  • The ministry of textiles is also taking this issue very seriously and proposed various measures in its 12th five year plan by reviving the Mini Mission (MM) III focusing on training to farmers on modern farm practices and handling indigenous technology for plucking kapas faster without adding contamination through prototype kapas plucker machine.

6. Financing: Unavailability of right time financing for cultivation of cotton causing involvement of money lenders who exploits the farmers by charging high interest and supply their produce to them with lower price.

The possible remedy to this problem is -
Necessary credit facility with lowest interest may be available to farmers to avoid involvement of money lenders. Recently, the government has started Kisan credit card yojana which will also be helpful to uplift the Indian cotton farmers.

What are your suggestions for improving the cotton sector of India?

Due to the sweeping changes in textile machinery and modern processing systems, the textile industry demands highly clean and contaminant-free cotton, while the only major problem in Indian cotton is contamination due to which it is sold on discounted rates in comparison to equivalent foreign cotton. Thus, with the objective to put Indian cotton at par with international standards, following measures can be undertaken
  1. Training at farm and ginning level: Training can be provided to farmers to avoid contamination at farm level from soil management until picking and transporting the kapas to APMC for selling. Training to the ginning and pressing factories to make their contribution to quality by selecting and segregating good kapas maintain the quality parameters, keep and maintain his machinery in top condition and use of sensors to remove contamination during processing.
  2. Classification of cotton: Cotton classification includes the cotton quality determinations of colour grade, fibre length, length uniformity index, fibre strength, micronaire, trash content and extraneous matter identification. Classification of cotton may be implemented through a third party bale by bale certification system. Third-party certification includes comprehensive material reviews, testing and inspections, which will ensure 100 per cent uniform testing to avert the confusion regarding quality parameters between buyer and seller. This concept of 100 per cent bale-by-bale third party certification is also proposed in 12th plan of TMC-II.
  3. Branding of Indian cotton: Variety-wise branding of Indian cotton will uplift its image amongst foreign buyers. For this purpose benchmark study may be undertaken, which will include brand strategy and market approach study along with brand touch points analysis. Thereafter, possible marketing strategy for brand positioning in the form of a brand assurance may be undertaken.
  4. Uniform code of conduct for contract compliance by the buyers irrespective of price volatility is also required.

How has demonetisation affected the cotton sector of India?

Demonetisation affected the cash flow of the textile industry and led to drive a constraint in the demand for the entire textile value-chain for a short period of time. The impact was significant on the unorganised segment, which forms a large part of the domestic textile sector where cash transactions are more prevalent, as reduction in currency circulation temporarily affected their routine business transactions.

As per the past practice, the majority of payments to the farmers are made in cash by the private buyers. However, on account of demonetisation due to money supply tightness, farmers also opted to wait till the position normalises. Besides this, due to the curbs imposed on the daily/weekly cash withdrawals, farmers were also hesitant for cheque payments. As a result, kapas arrivals were affected. As market arrivals of cotton take a hit on account of cash shortages due to the demonetisation of high-value notes, prices of the fibre crop in domestic market also shot up. Besides this, business was also affected due to demand of cash payment by the labourers and transporters. The above situation affected the off-take of yarn and resulting thereby accumulation of inventory in the mills.

As time progressed, slowly the farmers are accepting payment through cheques and the kapas arrivals have also started picking up. Further, the problem related with cash payment to labour/transporters is being diluted more rapidly with the efforts of the government for promoting the digital mode of transactions viz - unified Payments Interface (UPI), plastic money - debit/credit cards, net banking - online fund transfer, Aadhaar card - Aadhaar enabled payment system etc. Slowly, yarn market has also started picking up. Thus, the effect of demonetisation will be liquidated in due course of time completely.
Published on: 24/01/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of