Experts, farmers support call to change standards of grading cotton

By admin       2017-02-15

Feb 15, 2017 Nagpur: The minimum support price (MSP) of cotton varieties is based on the staple (fibre) length, fineness, and moisture content. However, experts feel the fibre or lint content should also be considered as an equally important factor. The argument is that higher lint or ginning per cent (GP) indicates better quality cotton, with lesser wastage. This will not only fetch a better price for farmers but also better quality cotton for further processing by ginners. Farmers and ginners are already demanding inclusion of GP in fixing the cotton price. However, this will not be easy, since incorporating GP as a measure of quality will require instrumentation at every step in cotton purchase and processing. Experts say cotton farmers have always been at the receiving end due to varied reasons, like bad weather, low minimum support price (MSP), rising production costs, low production etc. The cotton procurement system too is unfair since it does not include GP. GP represents the actual percentage of fibre in the raw seed-cotton sold by farmers. GP should be the most important parameter in evaluating quality since it determines the net amount of cotton fibre (lint) available after separating the seeds (ginning). Higher the GP, more is the fibre content, so such cotton should fetch higher price. "However, ginners and government purchasing departments are unable to quantify lint quantity at point of purchase. This deprives farmers of higher profit for their produce. In fact, government should fix cotton MSP by lint quantity, just like sugar content sets the price for sugar cane. This will benefit farmers as well ginners and spinners. The current cotton grading, by estimating fibre qualities with visual inspection, results in different assessment by every individual," said a cotton scientist. Experts say other countries, where cotton productivity and GP are high, the cotton price is fairly standardized, because of the fewer varieties, unlike India, where cotton hybrids are in hundreds. Since India's GP is around 32-33%, much below the world average 38-42%, farmers as well ginners get much less price. An increase of just 1% in GP results in 3% higher fibre yields and ginners profit margin. If the GP of Indian cotton is increased 4-5% from current levels, ginners would realize about 12-15% (450-550kg/quintal) more cotton, and can pass on some profit to farmers too. Director of Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) Keshav Kranthi agrees that farmers as well as ginners would benefit with higher ginning percentage cotton. But he adds that such a change in system would require strong political will and administrative efforts. Instruments would be required at every step, from collecting centres handling different hybrids to ginners segregating cotton by GP to offer different prices for cotton. Small units of Lilliput gins and small balances would be needed at every market yard to estimate GP. "A few recent Bt cotton hybrids have 37-39% GP. Almost all desi cotton varieties have GP of over 40%. Some desi varieties have as much as 44% GP. Unfortunately, these do not command a higher price currently even if they are better than the American cotton hybrids. There could be a separate category of cotton with higher GP in the MSP list," he said. "Surprisingly, currently ginners discourage desi cotton, because double roller gins are unsuitable for ginning it. We also need adjustable double roller gins for desi cotton, so a system can be developed to pay higher price for higher GP at the market yards," said Dr Kranthi.

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