A cotton crisis is upon us as climate change takes a toll on crops | Business Standard Editorials

Clipped from: https://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/a-cotton-crisis-is-upon-us-as-climate-change-takes-a-toll-on-crops-122082400012_1.html

Climate adaptability needs to be improved without compromising on yield potential

The weather-induced sharp dip in cotton production and the resultant exorbitant spike in its prices in almost all major cotton-producing countries have plunged the whole textile sector into a crisis the world over. In most countries, the prices of cotton have surged by 60 to 70 per cent in the past one year and are currently ruling at their highest level in over a decade. In India, the prices have more than doubled since last year, forcing many units in the textile industry to curtail operations or cease production, despite the waiver of import duty and other concessions to facilitate higher cotton imports. High production costs and the shrinkage of garments demand owing largely to the economic slowdown in many countries have squeezed the margins of all stakeholders in the textile industry —from yarn producers to apparel makers and exporters. Many textile mills have been forced to mix cotton yarn with other materials like rayon or polyester to reduce the dependence on the natural fibre and cut costs.

The abnormal weather in many parts of the world, marked by droughts and intense heat waves, has adversely affected the production of cotton, creating an acute supply crunch. In some countries, notably Australia, Brazil, India and Pakistan, the quality of the lint has also been affected. In the US, the world’s largest cotton exporter with a market share of nearly 40 per cent, crop output is projected to plummet by about 28 per cent and plunge to its lowest level since 2010 in the fresh new season, which began this month. The carryover stockpiles, too, are said to be close to their historical lows. Brazil, the second-largest exporter, is also going through a prolonged rainless spell and above-average temperatures, which might reduce the crop yields by about 30 per cent. China, another significant producer and consumer of cotton, is beset with a severe drought, jeopardising the prospects of the forthcoming cotton harvest.

In India, which is amongst the world’s leading cotton producers, the crop condition is far from satisfactory. Though the area under cotton is estimated to have expanded by about 5 per cent in response to high prices, production might be hit badly due to pest infestation in the north and excessive rain in the south. Many spinning units, powerlooms and garment manufacturers in Tamil Nadu, one of the country’s key textile hubs, have shut down and more have indicated the intention of doing so by the end of this month. Mills in other states, such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, are also expected to follow suit.

The genesis of the global cotton textile sector’s woes can be traced to the high sensitivity of this crop to weather, which is turning erratic due to climate change. Most cotton varieties being cultivated now in different countries have been bred primarily for yield enhancement and resistance to pests and disease, rather than climate resilience. India’s cotton revolution, too, has been based entirely on transgenic Bt-cotton hybrids, which can withstand the attack of pests like bollworms but are susceptible to adverse weather. Researchers around the world now need to focus on improving the adaptability of the crop to the changing climate without, of course, compromising on the quality of the produce and its yield potential.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s