Friday, January 11, 2008

'White Gold" Raises Rural Fortunes in India

India overtook the United States in 2007 as the second largest producer of cotton in the world, thanks to a bumper 2007/2008 harvest.

According to general manager of India's Vardhman Group, IJ Duhria, the sub-continent is on the cusp of a "white gold revolution", with 70 million people there engaged in cotton production.

"Slowly but continuously a quiet revolution is taking place," Mr Duhria said. "In India, cotton is sown over 9.5 million hectares, which is significantly larger than any other country - accounting around 27pc of the total world cotton area. "Production has grown significantly since mid 1980s due to improvement in both area and yield, but major impetus in cotton cultivation has come in after the introduction of Bt Cotton in India in 2002-03. "Since 2003-04 the area under Biotech Cotton has increased from mere 86,000ha to 5.5m ha in 2007-08 and production of cotton in country has increased by more than 72pc from 17.9 million bales in 2003-04 to projected 31 million bales in 2007-08, which makes India the second largest producer of Cotton in the world after China.

"The productivity of cotton in the country has rallied to a higher level despite the fact that the major area is still grown under rain-fed conditions, making the farmer dependent on monsoons."

The dramatic turn-around of the country's cotton fortunes means that from being an importer of about 2.5 million bales, India is now the second-largest exporter of cotton, with around six to seven million bales. This in itself is very interesting in that most areas are NOT irrigated. True, India has some great vertisol soils, typically used for cotton as well as other crops. And most cotton is grown by smaller producers.

Once again the role of biotechnology in improving cotton prospects offers a stark contrast and reminder of the situation in north Australia where opposition by vocal environmental groups has effectively prevented development of a northern Australia cotton industry.

Agricultural research has taken place, environmental work has shown biotech cotton will not be a weed, other work has also shown that pesticide use will be low........but POLITICS is stopping the developmental progress to a potential cotton growing industry in the north.

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