Our future lies in blends

Even a 25% growth in cotton and quality enhancement can help us meet the target of USD 350 billion by 2025, says Manish Daga

Blurb: “Cotton and polyester consumption in India is driven more by demand than by government policies. We see a huge opportunity in blends, especially in technical textiles.”
The 9th Asian Textile Conference (ATEXCON) 2018 organised by the Confederation of the Indian Textile Industry (CITI) was held on Wednesday, 14th March 2018.
The theme of the conference was Textile Industry: Moving Beyond the Conventional Paradigms. Over 350 leading industrialists, decision makers, diplomats, trade and technical experts, besides industry associations from India and abroad participated in the conference.
This year’s ATEXCON covered several important aspects that impact our industry. I briefly touch upon a few most important opportunities and needs of our textile industry.

Work on favourable Foreign Trade Agreements (FTAs)
Countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam have benefitted tremendously because of favourable FTAs, sometimes at our cost. Beneficial FTAs are the main reason for Vietnam emerging as the biggest exporter of cotton yarn to China and Bangladesh and emerging as the 2nd largest exporter of Ready Made Garment (RMG) in the past ten years.
In India, FTAs are the sole prerogative of the Government. Most of the times, the textile industry does not share any long-term vision with the government over FTAs. Our suggestion to the Ministry is that it must design FTAs in consultation with all stakeholders.

Integrated composite units must produce world-class products
The government must have at least a five-year policy plan for the composite sector as it involves very high capital investment and labour. Also, out-dated labour laws need to be restructured to serve the interest of both the parties.

Focus on cotton fibre can help achieve the textile industry target of USD 350 billion
During ATEXCON, everyone agreed that the percentage of cotton and synthetics in India is 60:40 in favour of cotton. The synthetic industry must grow 300% in the next seven years so that the national target is achieved. To me this appears very nonpractical and farfetched. Polyester, the prime synthetic fibre, is non-sustainable. It’s a petroleum product with limited life span and the source is also limited. Cotton fibre is perennial and sustainable. Even a 25% growth in cotton productivity and enhancement of quality should be enough to help the industry achieve the tall target of USD 350 billion landmark by 2025.
I believe that the percentage of cotton and polyester consumption is driven more by demand than by government policies. As India is the prime producer of both cotton and polyester, we see a very huge opportunity in exploring our strength by experimenting with blends, especially in technical textiles.

Agriculture by design
Agriculture of all crops (food, fuel, cotton) must be by design rather than by default. It is a farmer’s normal tendency to grow what has sold better in the previous year which can create supply and demand imbalances. The Textile industry must give an advance layout of its annual cotton requirement in terms of quantity, quality and geographical preferences so that the farmers can plan their crop, accordingly.

Fashion industry must create demand for sustainable and world-class textile products
The textile and fashion industry is an engine for development and one of the largest consumer industries, worldwide. However, the industry’s linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model puts significant pressure on resources, ecosystems and society. Addressing the sector’s environmental and social footprint is the key to sustaining the industry’s growth and to transition to a more sustainable fashion system. The fashion industry must create a derived demand such that it has a “pull” effect which benefits the entire textile value chain.
It’s most important that the fashion industry ‘connects’ with their supply chain right upto the producer (farmer) so that all the links are enrolled for quality, integrity and sustainability.

(The author is Managing Director of Cottonguru Group of Companies and Director of Cotton Association of India. The views expressed here are his own).

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