Textile mills in Tamil Nadu have drastically cut back their cotton procurement from Gujarat, which had long been a hub for premium cotton, in favour of states like Telangana and Maharashtra, in the wake of increased adulteration with substances like comber noil and other cotton waste by Gujarat’s ginners.
The Southern India Mills’ Association (SIMA) has also written to the Union textile ministry, seeking intervention in this regard. “Till the year before last, Tamil Nadu’s mills used to procure about 50-60 lakh bales from Gujarat alone. Last year, owing to adulteration, procurement was reduced by almost 60% and shifted to other states. This year, we are seeing a similar trend. Probably the practice of adulteration is only followed by 10% of ginners in Gujarat, but as an association, we are worried about farmers in Gujarat. If prices drop because the products are not quality-compliant, what will the poor farmers do,” said K Selvaraju, secretary general of SIMA.
Interestingly, the prices for cotton waste like comber noil, which is used in large quantities for currency printing and medical textiles, have also seen an increase over the last couple of months. From R60 per kg in October, cotton waste is now sold at R80 per kg. Several mills in Tamil Nadu allege this is due to increased demand by ginners in Gujarat, who are looking to mix the waste with virgin cotton. More than 50% of the cotton used by mills in Tamil Nadu are from Gujarat.
Selvaraju said: “Tamil Nadu’s mills consume about 120 lakh bales of cotton annually, but only five to six lakh bales are produced by the state. The Tirupur cluster alone requires 60 lakh bales, most of which is sourced from Gujarat. Last year, we had committed to the government that we would bring 20 lakh bales of cotton from Gujarat to Tamil Nadu through coastal shipping. However, not even one third of that quantity was procured by coastal shipping due to bad quality of the cotton. Many of the larger mills, which each require about six lakh bales of cotton, shifted their procurement to Telangana and Maharashtra. This year also, many of our members have said that they will shift to other places.”
Meanwhile, ginners in Gujarat are not worried about Tamil Nadu’s mills shifting of purchase orders. Speaking to FE, Dilip Patel, president of All Gujarat Ginners’ Association, said: “Only about 20% of cotton produced in Gujarat is sent to mills in south India. Earlier, the demand was more but now the consumption by local mills has increased along with export orders. By later this year, about 40 lakh spinning units are expected to come up in Gujarat alone, which will increase the state’s consumption to 65 lakh bales.”
According to Patel, Gujarat’s Textile Policy 2012, which lapses in September this year, has given a great push to the local market. Patel added: “Adulteration is prevalent in Gujarat, but local mill owners know who to buy it from. So, most people don’t face problems during purchasing. This year, the quality is lowered and the prices are subsequently lower as well. However, the problem is not unique to Gujarat. Even in Maharashtra, people are now beginning to mix waste with the raw cotton.”
According to data on the website of the Cotton Corporation of India, Gujarat accounted for production of 94 lakh bales, with a yield of 588 kg per hectare on an area of 27.19 lakh hectare in 2015-16. For the year 2016-17, the production is projected at 95 lakh bales, with a yield of 673 kg per hectare on an area of 24 lakh hectares. SIMA is keen to work with Gujarat’s ginners as a team and curtail the adulteration, rather than shift from the state.
“The adulteration in quality cotton pulls down the image of the state. We can omit those traders and mills who mix waste to good cotton, and deal only with the scrupulous ginners. The government and the ginners’ association should work together to find a common resolution,” it said.