Even as the Monsanto-NSA tussle is on, India's indigenously developed hybrid quality cotton variety, Shanker-6, is being globally threatened by African cotton and Peru Pima cotton. Lack of global branding of the medium staple high quality Shanker-6 could lead to sluggish export demand going forward, amidst rising popularity of the Sudanese cotton from Africa and Peru Pima cotton which are being heavily branded by the respective countries.
On the production front, India pipped China in 2015-16 to emerge as the world's largest cotton producer at 5.7 million metric tonnes as against the latter's 4.7 MMT.
However, in the absence of any branding efforts of its prominent Shanker-6 variety, international clients are increasingly turning towards Africa, Peru and the US, who have in recent times engaged in branding activities. For instance, Africa has been running international campaigns and branded its cotton as CMIA which stands for Cotton Made in Africa.
According to P R Roy of Diagonal Consulting, a leading textile consulting firm, while Africa has in recent times consciously branded its cotton, especially from Sudan, South American nation Peru, too has been conducting promotional activities globally and portraying its 'Pima' cotton as a worldwide brand.
"For branding, India has to do cotton projection properly and honest approach has to be made by the industry. This will help the country grow the business and assure the leadership in the global markets," said Roy, who was recently awarded a gold medal by the Society of Dyes and Colourists, UK.
Explaining the reason for lack of branding by India, Rakesh Rathi, president of Indian Cotton Association Limited (ICAL) said, "We are more concerned about price and volume and that's why India has not done branding for its best quality cotton. Neither government nor traders are serious about branding; we are selling our cotton because it is cheapest. Moreover, there are no standards set by the government which could help in brand promotion. For this we have to have certain norms which are not there at present."
Rathi also believes that branding should be done within the country also to get the best product. The other reason for lack of branding is the relatively higher share of domestic consumption of cotton in India. Out of total production of cotton, India exports around 15-20% while US exports over 70% out of its total production.
In addition, high adulterations in Shanker-6 has also hurt the Indian cotton image worldwide. "India needs to understand and adopt best practices of harvesting, ginning and handling of cotton. We previously suffered a lot due to adulteration and we may lose more if we will not change the things. We can get better prices of our cotton," said Shirish Shah of Bhaidas Karsandas Company from Mumbai and member of Cotton Association of India.
Indian seeds companies are actively engaged in seeds development and the government too is active in developing Indian variety of hybrid cotton seed. According to M G Shambekar, managing director of Ankur Seeds, the government is now aggressively promoting research of seeds development and Indian companies are capable to produce Indian variety.
According to seeds industry, alternate technology is necessary to break monopolistic practices in the industry. This will also be beneficial for farmers as they will have options to choose from.
"National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) has developed a desi cotton seed and now we are waiting for approval from the government. Multiple availability will reduce the price and will benefit farmers too," M Prabhakar Rao, chairman of NSL Group, said.
Swarna Bharat Biotechnique Private Limited (SBBPL), a joint venture company of seven leading seed companies of India has joined hands with NBRI, an arm of the Central Cotton Research Institute (CICR). Development part of Indian BT technology is over and new seed is expected to be launched by Kharif 2018.