India and China Where the Action Is for Cotton

North Carolina cotton grower says global demand for cotton has room to grow.

Published on: Jan 10, 2007

Recent trips to China and India in 2006 were real eye-openers for Laurel Hill, North Carolina cotton grower David Burns. Burns also has been serving as president of Cotton Council International, and traveled throughout the world last year on behalf of U.S. cotton, and cotton, itself.

"We need to promote cotton, itself, regardless of its origin," Burns said of the fiber, speaking at the 2007 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.

CCI is in its 50th year of promoting cotton, and coincidentally is in 50 countries now, having recently opened an office in Shanghai, in the same building as Cotton Incorporated. He marvels at the changes in China, and especially, India.

"India now has more than 600 shopping malls, where only recently, there hadn't been any," Burns observes.

Burns says that's likely due to both a desire, especially by younger people there, to have popular items identified with the West, like blue jeans, and also a result of more disposable income in India. He saw the same trend in cotton popularity in China.

But like the United States, India greatly courts the Chinese market, too, hoping to supply China's import needs with sizeable amounts of cotton produced in India.

"India is rapidly modernizing its cotton gins," Burns reports. "And Indian cotton growers are adopting biotechnology traits such as Bt cotton. Some growers in India already have doubled their cotton yields."

The traditional 400-pound per acre yield has become 700- or 800-lb. yields.

Allen A. Terhaar, executive director of Cotton Council International, Washington, D.C., agrees on the vital importance of India in the global cotton scenario.

"All the major retailers in the world want to be in India, and they want to be in China," Terhaar assures.

Burns says promotion of U.S. cotton has increased its demand by 10 to 12 million bales per year since CCI work began. CCI is the foreign arm of the National Cotton Council.