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Eco-Friendly Fabric Demands Propel Organic Cotton Farming in India

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representational image. pixabay

Barku Jairam, a 55-year-old farmer from Barwani of Madhya Pradesh, has taken up cultivating organic cotton, which he claims, has significantly brought down input costs besides ensuring a decent yield.

The demand for organic cotton from global apparel companies has prompted 1,000-odd farmers in the state to switch to eco-farming to grow cotton using bio-fertilisers and pesticides manufactured from medicinal plants.

The C&A foundation — the corporate foundation of fashion retail clothing chain C&A — has tied up with a few non-profits in the country to promote organic cotton farming as a part of its efforts to procure sustainable raw material for its business.

Although yields from organic farming are lower than by using Genetically Modified (GM) seed, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the negligible input cost makes it a profitable business, Jairam said.

 

"Till three years ago, I would earn up to Rs 27,000 per acre when I used GM hybrid seeds but the input cost would be around Rs 20,000 due to expensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
representational image. pixabay

 

“Till three years ago, I would earn up to Rs 27,000 per acre when I used GM hybrid seeds but the input cost would be around Rs 20,000 due to expensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

“Now, I earn around Rs 20,000 per acre but the input cost has reduced to just Rs 5,000,” Jairam told IANS.

Farmers like Jairam produce bio-fertiliser for free from manure and agricultural waste from their fields and pesticides from extracts of medicinal plants such as neem, karanj (pongamia), ratanjot (alkanet root), besharam (ipomoea) and custard apple leaves along with cow urine.

 

Non-profits Aga Khan Foundation and Action for Social Advancement are helping the C&A Foundation in promoting and procuring organic cotton.

According to the Union Agriculture Ministry, 30.01 million bales (of 170 kg each) of cotton — roughly 5.1 billion tonnes — were produced in the country in 2015-16.

 

"Till three years ago, I would earn up to Rs 27,000 per acre when I used GM hybrid seeds but the input cost would be around Rs 20,000 due to expensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
cotton plant. pixabay

 

The ministry, however, doesn’t give out the breakup of organically grown cotton vs other methods.

At 60,184 tonnes, India was the largest organic cotton producer in the world in 2015-16, accounting for 56 per cent of the total production of 107,980 tonnes while Madhya Pradesh accounted for 24 per cent, as per the C&A Foundation. Organic cotton accounted for less than one per cent of cotton produced globally.

Another farmer, Dhansingh Ghana, said hybrid seeds for organic farming were provided for free for first three years by the foundation as incentives to make them self-reliant.

“Even if we will have to pay for seeds now, the input cost would not be much as major components such as bio-fertilisers and pesticides are still free,” said Ghana.

According to these farmers, who had come to the state’s capital Bhopal to attend an event on organic farming, the foundation gave them Rs 200-300 more per quintal when compared with the government rates.

 

According to the Union Agriculture Ministry, 30.01 million bales (of 170 kg each) of cotton -- roughly 5.1 billion tonnes -- were produced in the country in 2015-16. The ministry, however, doesn't give out the breakup of organically grown cotton vs other methods.
Organic Cotton Balls, Pixabay

 

Anita Chester, Head of Sustainable Raw Materials of C&A Foundation, said the negative impact of climate change has driven brands across the globe to look for sustainable alternatives.

“The way climate change is impacting all of us, the whole industry thinks that the businesses have to be more responsible.

“In this inequitable world, there is growing consciousness that there has to be more equity in what we do. This is what drives the brands to push themselves and set targets to source sustainable materials,” she said.

Organic cotton production needs 93 per cent less water as compared to the conventional cotton cultivation, according to the foundation. It also said the climate change impact is of 338.5 kg CO2 equivalent by organic cotton as opposed to 680.2 kg CO2 equivalent by conventional cotton.

"Till three years ago, I would earn up to Rs 27,000 per acre when I used GM hybrid seeds but the input cost would be around Rs 20,000 due to expensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
cotton plantation, pixabay

The brands have sustainability commitment and so the demand for organic material is very strong now, said Chester.

“They are giving clear signal that organic is important and special. So it needs to grow,” she said.

Chester said her foundation supports the farmers who want to go organic through capacity building and helping them in getting certification, which helps them to link with the markets.

While there are hurdles such as non-availability of seeds, lack of input agencies, poor market links for organic farming, the foundation is bringing all stakeholders, including the government to cross the barriers, she said.

"Till three years ago, I would earn up to Rs 27,000 per acre when I used GM hybrid seeds but the input cost would be around Rs 20,000 due to expensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
cotton plant. pixabay

Faiz Kidwai, Managing Director of the Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Marketing Board, sought a fixed price for farmers to promote organic cotton.

“There is a huge potential for organic farming in the state but farmers are not keen on doing it because they do not see any benefits due to lack of market, supply chain or value chain.

Also Read: Let Linen be Your Saviour This Summer

“We will have to assure fixed market price to bring them on board,” Faiz told reporters on the sidelines of the event. (IANS)

Next Story

The Rafale Deal: Corporate Rivalry Impacting National Interest

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie's dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on 'India's strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal'.Pixabay

A recent European Union intelligence sharing exercise with India has revealed that Lockheed Martin, the US-headquartered company which manufactures the F-16 fighter jets, has been up to mischief mongering on the Rafale issue.

The Rafale jets, which India wants, is manufactured by the French aerospace company Dassault Aviation, a rival of Lockheed Martin.

That Lockheed Martin could be working in the shadows to sour the Rafale deal for India so that it could move in with its own deal was validated when Vivek Lall, Lockheed Martin’s high-profile head of strategy and India operations, said that the company was in the process of finalising the sale of 200 fighters to India.

During the UPA regime, the government had signed an MoU for 126 Rafale fighter jets to replenish a major shortcoming in air defence preparedness because the Indian Air Force did not have quality fighter jets. When the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, this deal was revised and an inter-government deal was struck to receive 36 fully-loaded Rafale jets. The controversy now raging in India is related to the pricing for the fighters negotiated by the NDA.

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’. Pixabay

In December when the Rafale case came before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that processes were generally followed over the procurement. He also noted that the controversy had been triggered by comments by former French President Francois Hollande over the selection of the offset partner and that mere comments could not form the basis for a probe.

However, this has not prevented the Rafale purchase controversy from becoming a high-octane political battle between the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Repeatedly over the past few months and more stridently now in the lead-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has led a no-holds barred attack on the government and the Prime Minister specifically on the issue. From the earlier public disinterest on the controversy, it is now now getting some traction — the Congress party believes this could be possible because it has relentlessly raised the matter at all public forums.

Bringing up the case of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was said to be part of the orhestrated plan to present the case of the American companies while also appearing nationalistic. In the government’s estimate, HAL’s record is abysmal and it cannot be given a big responsibility like building fighter jets — more so in the light of the safety record of MiG fighters purchased from Russia and made under licence from HAL.

The BJP-led government at the Centre believes — and it is certain it has evidence of this — that the Congress party is doing this as it has become a party to corporate rivalry between the US and French aerospace companies. For the record, Lockheed Martin is believed to have found a sympathetic ally in another US aerospace major, Boeing, which manufactures the F-18. Dassault has another rival in French manufacturer Airbus Industrie, which is associated with BAE for the manufacture of the Eurofighter. It is also angling for a fighter jet contract with India.

Rahul Gandhi’s attacks on the government over the Rafale issue started after his visit to the US in August 2017 when he met several defence lobbyists, CEOs of US defence companies and Pentagon officials.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’.

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Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Pixabay

The government’s efforts to trace the footprints of the dramatis personae at the forefront of the campaign to target the government over the Rafale deal has produced surprising results. It has found what it believes are eye-opening linkages between Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — who filed a PIL in the Supreme Court accusing the Prime Minister of corruption in the deal — and arms dealers and defence manufacturers. At least in one case, the linkages show deep connections between members of Shourie’s family with aerospace companies, arms dealers and defence lobbies.

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie’s dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

Also Read: The Craft of Distilling Is Ancient, Different Story Behind Every Bottle

The government is also aware of the links between a top BJP leader’s son-in-law and a French manufacturer. The son-in-law is said to be advising Rahul Gandhi and is believed to be making government documents available to him for the campaign against Rafale.

Lockheed Martin’s alleged actions to work the political ecosystem to pull down the Rafale procurement deal also has a larger strategic context. Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.  (IANS)