India's Declining Cotton Production

India's Declining Cotton Production
Posted on 12-09-2023

India's Shrinking Cotton Production: A Growing Concern for Multiple Industries

India is facing a concerning decline in cotton production, which is a crucial commercial crop in the country, constituting approximately 25% of global cotton production. This decline in cotton production and yields has significant implications for various sectors of the Indian economy.

Cotton is a versatile crop, providing food, feed, and fiber. The soft and fluffy fiber from cotton crops is extensively used in the textile industry, making it a cornerstone of India's industrial and agricultural economy. It directly supports the livelihoods of 6 million farmers and indirectly employs about 40-50 million people in associated processes such as trade and processing.

Cotton production involves separating the white lint from the raw cotton known as kapas, with the remaining portion comprising seeds and waste. Cottonseed is a valuable commodity, containing oil used for cooking and frying, as well as a protein-rich feed ingredient for livestock and poultry.

Cotton dominates India's textile fiber consumption, representing approximately two-thirds of the total. Additionally, cottonseed is the country's third-largest domestically-produced vegetable oil and the second-largest feed cake/meal after soybean.

The adoption of Bt cotton, genetically modified to resist bollworm infestations, led to a substantial increase in cotton production between 2000-01 and 2013-14, with yields almost doubling during this period. However, recent data reveals a decline in both production and yields.

The decline in cotton production can be attributed primarily to the emergence of the pink bollworm (PBW), a pest that specifically targets cotton. Bt cotton, while effective against other pests, has struggled to control PBW infestations, leading to significant crop losses. The PBW has become more prevalent across different regions of India, impacting cotton crops at an earlier stage of growth.

Efforts to control PBW through conventional insecticide spraying have shown limited efficacy, as the larvae feed on various parts of the cotton plant, affecting lint quality and yields. An alternative approach involves mating disruption using synthetic pheromones to disrupt the reproductive cycle of PBW moths. This method has shown promise, with products like PBKnot and SPLAT-PBW demonstrating positive results in reducing PBW mating and increasing cotton yields.

To address the challenges posed by declining cotton production and the emergence of new pests like PBW, it is crucial to embrace new technologies, including genetically modified crops, next-generation insecticides, and mating disruption methods. These innovations will be essential in sustaining cotton cultivation and supporting India's textile industry.

In conclusion, the decreasing cotton production in India is a cause for concern due to its far-reaching impact on various sectors, particularly the textile industry. Urgent attention and the adoption of innovative solutions are needed to address the challenges and ensure the continued success of cotton farming in India.

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