Historical references indicate that the earliest civilization to spin and weave cotton was that of India. For over three thousand years (1500 BC to 1700 AD), India was recognized as the cradle of cotton industry. India has been the producer of cotton and of the finest and most beautiful cotton fabrics since time immemorial. India thus enjoys the distinction of being the earliest country in the world to domesticate cotton and utilized its fiber for manufacture of fabrics.

This affinity has endured through the centuries and today India ranks first in cotton-cultivated area and third in production among all cotton producing countries in the world i.e. next to China and the USA.

Cotton plays a vital role in the Indian economy. It sustains the Indian cotton textile industry, which constitutes the single largest segment of organized industries in the country. It provides gainful employment to millions of people besides contributing substantially to the country’s foreign trade. The economic significance of cotton and cotton industry in India is so great that Mahatma Gandhi based his freedom movement on cotton economics. It also made late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India to observe thus:

            “The history of cotton and of textile is not only the history of the growth of modern industry in India, but in a sense it might be considered the history of India during the past one hundred years.”

            “………..When I think of textile my mind travels back some thousand of years to the period when India perhaps was the only country producing these cotton based textiles and exporting them to distant lands……….”

            India has brought about a qualitative and quantitative transformation in the production of cotton since her independence. Production and productivity of cotton in India have improved significantly during the past five decades. The production increased from 2.79 million bales of 170 kgs each in 1947-48 to 17.8 million bales in 1996-97, an increase of 538 per cent, though thereafter there was a consecutive decline in cotton production in next two years i.e. 1997-98 and 1998-99 to the 15.8 million bales and 16.3 million bales respectively. Cotton production during 1999-2000 is expected to increase to the level of 167 lakh bales as per provisional estimates of the Cotton Advisory Board.

            At the time of independence, mostly short and medium staple cottons were produced and while there was no long and extra long staple cottons during 1947-48. There now constitute more then 50 per cent of the production. Today, India produces the widest range of cottons capable of spinning from 6s to 120s counts. The import of cotton, particularly of Egyptian and Sudanese long and extra long staple cotton, which was a regular phenomenon till 1978-79 was no longer required ass India now is now is not only self sufficient in her cotton requirement but also has emerged a net exporter of cotton including cottons comparable to Egyptian and Sudanese types.

            Development of improved varieties and hybrid in the different staple length groups, generation of improved production and plant protection technologies, their dissemination by extension functionaries and adoption by farmers are responsible for bringing about the distinct charge in the cotton scenario to its present state. Government policies such as giving greater thrusts to Research and Development in cotton encouraging use of quality seeds and pesticides by providing subsidies for such input and price support measures have also contributed in no small manner in changing the cotton scenario.


Despite the progress enunciated above, cotton yield per hectare in India is one of the lowest in the world and as a result the total income of the cotton farmers is not adequate. According to Prof. M.S.Swaminathan, the renowned Agricultural Scientist “Reliance on rain, a week seed supply system, small land holding, poor weed control and scanty use of integrated pest management technologies are responsible for the low yield in India.”

Quality of cotton is also far from satisfactory considering the presence of a large number of contaminants thus creating problems for the textile spinning industry.


The mill consumption of cotton in the country has been continuously on an increase in the last few years. Thus, the mill consumption, which was 10.31 million bales during 1991-92, increased to 15.83 million bales by the years 1996-97, an increase of 53.5 per cent, though in recent year i.e. 1997-98 and 1998-99 there has been a small decline in mill consumption of cotton to the level of about 15.0 million bales and15.17 million bales respectively.

The mill consumption during 1999-2000 is provisionally estimated to be 15.90 million bales.

According to estimates, over 20 million bales of cotton will be needed by the year 2003 to meet both domestic and export demands. At the same time, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of cotton to meet the requirement of the textile mill industry and in particular the 100% Export Oriented Units to face the global challenge.

            Having regard to the above, the government of India’s launching of the Technology Mission on cotton (TMC) with for Mini Mission is welcome. The objective of TMC is to raise further India’s cotton crop yield substantially and thereby to boost the yearly output to 20 million bales. The four Mini Mission of the Technology Mission would involve the use of better technology, training to farmers, use of quality seeds, better pest control management, use of sprinklers and drip irrigation system, improvement in marketing infrastructure and processing of cotton through up gradation of ginning and processing technology. Each Mini Mission will have specific objectives and will tackle issues ranging from research on cotton to improvement in production and productivity of cotton, development of marketing infrastructure and up-gradation/modernization of ginning and pressing factories.


The government has also launched the much awaited Technology Up-gradation Fund (TUF) Scheme, effective from 1st April, 1999 which help the modernization efforts of the textile and jute industries, including the cotton ginning and pressing sector, through technology up-gradation. The main feature of the TUF Scheme would be a confessional rate of interest charged by the lending Agency for a Project on technology Up-gradation


However, as per the specific eligible condition of the Scheme, any cotton ginning and pressing industry unit availing of benefit under the Technology Mission on Cotton or any other special scheme will not be eligible for coverage under the TUF Scheme.


The most notable increase in production has been in the case of Gujarat (15.00 lakh bales to 47.00 lakh bales) followed by Andhra Pradesh (18.75 lakh bales to 25.50 lakh bales) between the period 1990-91 to 1998-99 i.e. an increase of 21.3% and 36% respectively. The production in Karnataka and Tamilnadu has remained more or less constant during the same period, while in Northern State of Punjab and Haryana, the production has progressively declined from 17.25 lakh bales and 11.50 lakh bales to 5.00 lakh bales and 7.00 lakh bales respectively,

over the same period. In Maharashtra, which has the highest area under cotton cultivation among all State, the production has been fluctuating from year to year and no definite trend is noticeable. In Madhya Pradesh, an increasing trend in production has been maintained (though not significant) between the period 1990-91 to 1997-98, though thereafter there is a declining trend in production in M.P. in Rajasthan, production after having increased between 1990-91 and 1995-96 started declining in subsequent years.

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