The International Trade Centre (ITC), Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) participated in the Cotton India conference, held from 5-7 December 2016 in Mumbai. The theme of the conference was ‘Weaving the world of cotton together’. Organised by the Cotton Association of India, Cotton India brings together delegates from national and international cotton associations, industry experts and other participants including cotton traders and merchants from across India and the world.
SITA facilitated the participation of cotton ginners as well as representatives from the cotton regulatory bodies in Tanzania and Uganda, namely the Cotton Development Organisation, Uganda and Tanzania Cotton Board. In addition to the four sponsored participants from SITA partner countries – Tanzania and Uganda – one participant from Zambia also attended the Cotton India conference, facilitated by another ITC project.
At the conference, ITC’s Programme Manager for Fibres, Textiles & Cotton, Matthias Knappe moderated a panel discussion on the Future of African Cotton. Presenting an overview of the cotton potential in Africa, the discussions also highlighted the major challenges that the African cotton industry faces and opportunities to address these challenges. Africa suffers from low cotton yields – India’s experience in using genetically modified cotton to help increase yields provides some important lessons learned for African countries. For both India and Africa, the promotion of hand-picked cotton, which guarantees higher levels of quality than machine-picked cotton, is an opportunity. The panel also discussed the trade opportunities which India and the Indian subcontinent provide to African countries.
During the conference, African participants had ample opportunities to network with Indian, Bangladeshi and international cotton players. Ginners were able to discuss trade prospects with Indian spinners, traders and brokers to explore closer trade collaboration for the next ginning season.
“The conference was an eye opener for me and I got the opportunity to exchange experiences with stakeholders from other countries,” said Boaz Ogola of Alliance Ginneries Limited, Tanzania. “The conference made me understand that there are many opportunities for the cotton sector compared to other manmade fibres and that there is indeed more room for the growth,” Mr. Ogola added.
Meanwhile, representatives from the cotton regulatory bodies in Tanzania and Uganda had the opportunity to learn how India supports its cotton sector as well as the best practices and continuous improvement measures adopted at farm and gin levels.
“Cotton India 2016 was an eye opener for Tanzania in a number of ways. First, meeting the entire international cotton community in Mumbai provided a learning opportunity on the most pressing issues for the cotton industry in Tanzania,” said Marco Mtunga of the Tanzania Cotton Board. “For instance, the significance of adopting new technologies and strict adherence to new procedures was underscored. Second, as the cost of textile production in Asia is rising, Tanzania can position itself to be a new home for textiles provided the investment environment is right,” he added.
Besides the panel discussion, the East African delegation visited several cotton and textile organisations in Mumbai, including a visit to Dr. Kavita Gupta, Textile Commissioner. Dr. Gupta’s office is responsible for 80 per cent of the cotton, textile and clothing sector in India, with the exception of handloom. The delegation also visited the Textiles Committee to learn more about India’s grading system of ginneries, which helps to improve efficiency and reduce cotton contamination, making cotton fetch a high value in the market.
“It is the dream of Tanzania Cotton Board to replicate the grading of ginneries in Tanzania,” Mr. Mtunga observed.
The team also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Confederation of India Textile Industry (CITI), to learn about the public-private pilot project in Rajasthan. This project is undertaken by the Rajasthan Textile Mill Association, Bayer Crop Science and the Agricultural Department of the State Government of Rajasthan to grow gin and spin improved cotton varieties, including for extra-long staple cotton.
In addition to meetings in Mumbai, the team also visited a public-private initiative of the Cotton and Allied Products Research Foundation (COTAAP) in Chopda, Maharashtra. Through a public-private partnership, this initiative supports farmers to generate more income by raising yields through training on best practices, equipment upgrades and ensuring they have high-quality seeds and inputs. According to the East African delegation, this model of technology transfer to smallholder farmers could be replicated in East Africa.
Further, the SITA team met with the key officials of Cotton Textiles Export Promotion Council of India (TEXPROCIL), the agency in charge of promoting exports of Indian cotton textiles to global markets under its “Indian Cotton, Global Reach” programme. Among other partnership possibilities, TEXPROCIL presents a direct market linkage for SITA partner countries and beneficiaries as the Council currently imports a large volume of cotton. Consequently, African cotton could be marketed to them more directly.
In addition, SITA representatives visited the Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology (CIRCOT). CIRCOT’s mission is to provide scientific and managerial interventions to postharvest processing and value addition to cotton and other natural fibres and utilisation of their by-products to maximize economic, environmental and societal benefits.
“The technologies developed at CIRCOT are very relevant to Tanzania. For example, cotton stalks are still an underutilised resource which could be harnessed to increase the income of the farmer. Producing compost, pellets and briquettes from stalks is a technology which should have been introduced in Tanzania yesterday,” Mr. Mtunga said.
On the sidelines of the conference, the participants – the Cotton Development Organisation, Uganda, the Tanzania Cotton Board and the Cotton Association of Zambia – joined the Indian Society for Cotton Improvements (ISCI) as members. ISCI is a professional forum of cotton scientists and a supporter of the cotton sector in India.