About Indian Cotton
Cotton is a basic necessity of every one's life. It plays a very vital role in the Indian economy. It is generally termed as a major cash crop of India. 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 from cotton background engaged in harvesting, plucking, and marketing, ginning and pressing of cotton. It is among the leading crops since it is labour-intensive, particularly as it needs season-long plant protection measures and also because it is harvested not once, as in the case of most other crops, but four of five times in a season. It also contributes substantially to the country's foreign trade. More importantly, it is the highest earner of net foreign exchange, contributing over 30% from textile industry, which is fully dependent on Indian Raw Cotton. 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 Pdt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime minister of Independent India to observe thus:
"The History of cotton and of textiles 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."
The dominant role of cotton in the country's economy is known at all. Apart from being the provider of a basic necessity of life that is clothing, next only to food, cotton also contributes in no small measure to the country's foreign exchange earnings by the way of exports in the form of raw cotton, intermediate products such as yarn and fabrics to ultimate finished products in the form of garments, made ups and knitwear. It provides livelihood to the millions of people of the country. In short, cotton is a commodity of vital importance in our national economy. It is however strange that precise estimate of the crop of such economic importance is difficult to obtain in view of conflicting figures of the crop given out by different agencies. This puts in jeopardy decision-making with reference to export/import by the government and other decisions.
Measurement of Indian Cotton
Quality of cotton is mainly based on two important parameters- Staple length and Strength of the fiber. Staple length is generally classified into 5 categories such as:

  • Short Staple (SS)
  • Medium Staple (MS)
  • Medium Long Staple (MLS)
  • Long Staple (LS)
  • Extra Long Staple Cotton (ELS)

Quality strength of the cotton is usually denoted as G/Tex, (Gram Per Tex) and PSI. The two quality parameters are measured and expressed in Milli meter (mm) and Gram Per Tex (GPT) respectively. The other paramtres, which determines the quality of cotton, are Micronaire (the fineness of the fibre), Uniformity Ratio (consistency among the fibres), Colour grade and Maturity of the fibre.
Cotton Growing Period
With wide variations in agro - climatic conditions as well as sowing period, production practices and life span of verities, growth period of cotton differs considerably from region to region or State to State. The major planting season is However, April - July in the North and Central Zones and August -October in south zone. Some tracts growing cotton during summer plant the crop in February - March.
The harvesting period also varies depending on the planting period and the duration of the variety. The maximum cotton is however picked during October - January and in some tracts the period extends up to April- May. Summer planted cotton is picked during June - September.
Indian Cotton Industry
Cotton has inextricably woven itself into the fabric of India's economy. Its importance in the fields of both agriculture and industry is unrivalled. The Indian cotton crop, occupying around nine million hectares annually, is the largest in the world and constitutes more than one - fourth of the world cotton area. Cotton takes a share of about six percent of the total area under all crops in India and is the leading and in some cases the only, cash crop in several dry farming regions. Around 25 million people are engaged in cotton growing to produce a crop of same 16-17 million bales. Its value is around Rs 22,500 crore at current prices.
Indian Textile industry, built mostly cotton, is the oldest and largest industry in India and the second largest in the world. It has a share of 20 percent in the country's total industrial output. There are nearly 4000 ginning and pressing factories in India where the cotton extracted from the farm is processed and transformed into saleable raw cotton bales. These factories are entirely dependent on cotton for their operations. A large number of them are located in rural areas , close to the cotton producing centers, providing employment to quite a large number of rural labour when cotton is processed and there are few alternative avenues of employment. Since cotton moves over long distance throughout the country, it provides business for a large number of transport operators, besides thousands of market men in both domestic and international trade. Cotton is also playing an increasingly significant role in the edible oil sector. The current production of cotton seed is around 5.5 million tones, of which about 0.6 million go for cattle feed and about 0.2 millions tones are used as planting seed. Out of the remaining seed which is used for cryshing, 0.5 million tones of cotton seed oil is produced, thus helping the country to bridge the gap to some extent between the demand and supply of edible oils. Cottonseed extractions are also exported to fetch around Rs. 5 crore in foreign exchange.
Thus, cotton touches the country's economy at several points as no other crop does. It therefore, eminently qualifies as a crop that deserves special attention. This is all the more so because there is a vast reservoir of potential for developing Indian cotton industry which is yet to be tapped.
Cotton Highlights
  • India generally has largest area under cotton cultivation in the world. If we go by the figures it states that India had 80. lakh Hectares of land under the cotton cultivation in the year 2003-2004. (Annexure A Table 5).
  • India is the third largest producer of cotton in the world after China and USA (177 Lakh bales in 2003-2004)
  • Productivity had remained of the lowest in the world around the levels 300 - 310 Kg/Hectare. Till 2004-2005
  • The Indian crop is the third largest in the world whose value is an estimated 4.5 billion in US Dollars.
  • Only one third of cotton area is under irrigation.
  • Short unspinnable desi cottons to extra-long (40 mm) Suvin, spinnable to 120s count* are grown in the country.
  • India is the only country cultivating cottons of all the staple classes and belong to all four cultivable species.
  • India is the only country in the world that grows not only all the four cultivated species of cotton but also their intra-and inter-specific hybrids on a commercial scale.
  • Cotton provides Livelihood to 60 million people engaged in farming, industry and trade related to cotton and cotton by products.
  • Textile exports accounts for 30 % of India's total exports.
  • Cotton textiles alone make up 20% of the exports.