Tussle between farm, textile ministries may scupper cotton Bill

Written by Banikinkar Pattanayak | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 25 2012, 08:41am hrs
The revised draft Cotton Distribution (Collection of Statistics) Bill, 2012, has removed some harsh provisions, including a jail term for ginners for failure to register with the textile commissioner on time, but the farm ministrys objections on grounds it would take the cotton trade back into the licence era has put a question mark on the fate of the Bill.

The revised draft proposes to make it mandatory for cotton ginners to provide data on the variety and the quantity of cotton processed in the factory each day throughout the season. They would be mandated to maintain registers and submit data on the cotton pressed each month with the textile commissioner to improve accuracy in data compilation. All cotton processing factories, traders and manufacturers will be required to register themselves with the textile commissioner within six months of the enactment of the proposed Act, and failure to do so will attract a fine of R1,000 a day each.

According to the textile ministry, which has drafted the bill, a statutory framework for the collection of statistics would enable the Cotton Advisory Board to firm up a proper balance sheet of cotton each year.

However, the agriculture ministry believes such provisions would increase red tape and be detrimental to the interest of both trade and farmers, and will oppose the bill vehemently, said an official source. The agriculture ministrys comments objecting to several provisions of the initial draft bill were more comprehensive than the draft itself, said another source. The ministry believes there is no reason to tweak the current method of firming up cotton production estimates, based on crop cutting.

The bill also provides for permanent bale identification system at ginning and pressing units, which would be given fresh press mark numbers. No cotton bale should be processed by any factory until a press mark number was provided to it by the textile commissioner. However, the revised draft bill has scrapped the penalty provision of up to Rs one thousand a bale for the removal of cotton from the ginning or pressing factory without the press mark numbers.

The need for authentic data collection in cotton rose in the past two years when the ministry of agriculture firmed up usually higher estimates of cotton output than the state-backed CAB. Since production figures are key to arriving at the exportable surplus of the fibre, incorrect compilation of data, especially at initial stages of production, has the potential to jeopardise efforts to keep domestic cotton supplies steady by controlling exports accordingly.