India Destined to be Biggest Lint Producer

Technology and improved management cited as boosts for South Asia cotton. Dan Crummett

Published on: Jan 4, 2006

Cotton merchant Gary Taylor says within the next three to five years India will likely be the world's largest cotton producing nation. Taylor, president of Cargill Cotton, Cordova, Tenn., and Cotton Council, International, says several factors point to the South Asia nation's rise to cotton prominence.

He spoke at the annual Cotton Council Incorporated breakfast at the 2006 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio, Wednesday.

Gary Taylor, president of Cotton Council, International, says he sees India becoming the world's largest cotton producer within the next three to five years.

"First, the nation is experiencing rapid population growth and an unprecedented growth in the middle class," he explained. "Similar economic growth is being seen in neighboring China and Pakistan…" which is fueling demand for fiber as consumers improve their standards of living.

Second, technology is playing a big part in boosting India's cotton production.

"For years the typical Indian cotton producer farmed 1 to 25 acres and was saving seed at the back end of the gin, and over the years that led to extremely poor cotton performance and yield," Taylor says. "Within the past two years, however, we're seeing the results of the introduction of better varieties and technology seed—particularly Bt protected seed--in the area. Their yields are becoming significantly better." 

Similarly, Gary Adams, vice president of economics and policy at the National Cotton Council says India has the second-fastest growing economy after China and likely will overtake China as the most populous nation in the coming decades. Today, India spins 16 million bales of cotton and harvests 22 million acres, he explains.

"In the past India's average yield was less than 300 lbs. per acre, but since 2003 we've seen that grow by 100 lbs. which is very significant," he adds.

National Cotton Council economist and vice president Gary Adams says India's population and economic growth are fueling the nation's demand for fiber and technology is helping boost production.

While Adams sees India eventually becoming a force in the export market, Taylor says much of the increases in production there will remain in the Pakistan, India, China area. "India is much more interested in capturing the value-added premiums of finished products, so for the time being, I'd see most of their improvements being used domestically," he explains.

One thing, both agree on, U.S. imports of cotton will not grow in India.