Bangladesh now depends less on India for cotton and African nations become the largest source
India accounted for 26.12% of the total cotton imports of Bangladesh, down from more than 60 percent two years ago. A recent data of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) is showing this.
Local spinners and millers look to cut down their dependence on a single source for their vital raw material. In this regard, African nations have surpassed India to become the largest source of cotton for Bangladesh.
Last year, Bangladesh imported 37.06% of its requirement for the white fiber from East and West African countries. At the same time, 11.35% of the cotton came from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, 11.14% from the US, 4.65% from Australia and 9.65% from the rest of the world.
The low quality of Indian cotton is the main reason behind the falling imports from the neighboring country. A section of Indian cotton traders also cannot maintain timely shipment and deliver the right quantity of cotton as per agreement.
“Indian cotton quality is not good, it is not contamination free, short staple length and other quality parameters are not good,” said Mohammad Ali Khokon, President of BTMA.
For example, it is written in the letter of credit that there may be 3 to 4 percent less cotton than the amount agreed upon when the imported fiber is weighed in Bangladesh. But in many cases, it is 10 to 15 percent less.
“This is a big loss for us. We can’t afford this kind of losses. This is another reason for moving away from India,” said Mehdi Ali, President of the Bangladesh Cotton Association.
The concentration of moisture in the Indian cotton is higher than in other countries’, which makes it difficult to store in the warehouses for a long time.
Last year, Bangladesh imported 8.28 million bales of cotton (one bale equals to 282 Kg). In dollar terms, the imports are worth $3 billion. The country produced 1.65 lakh bales of cotton last fiscal year, which is less than 3% of the annual demand for 10 million bales.
“We already know that in Africa, there are three cotton zones: East Africa, West Africa, and Central Africa. These are well known for high-quality and long staple length. The productivity of Africa’s cotton is 10-12% higher than that of India’s cotton,” said Mohammad Ali Khokon.
“Indian cotton quality is not good, it is not contamination free, short staple length and other quality parameters are not good.”
“So, Bangladesh cotton importers have increased their importing from African counties,” Khokon concluded.
In order to extend local production, state-run Cotton Development Board is looking for new farming lands in hilly and swamp areas in various districts along with the existing farming areas in Jashore, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Gazipur and Mymensingh.
The board hopes to produce 2.5 lakh bales of cotton by 2021, which will meet nearly 5-7% of the local consumption.