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Demand for eco-friendly fabrics propels organic cotton farming

Bhopal, May 16: Barku Jairam, a 55-year-old farmer from Barwani of Madhya Pradesh, has taken up cultivating organic cotton, which he claims, has significantly brought down input costs besides ensuring a decent yield.

The demand for organic cotton from global apparel companies has prompted 1,000-odd farmers in the state to switch to eco-farming to grow cotton using bio-fertilisers and pesticides manufactured from medicinal plants.

The C&A foundation — the corporate foundation of fashion retail clothing chain C&A — has tied up with a few non-profits in the country to promote organic cotton farming as a part of its efforts to procure sustainable raw material for its business.

Although yields from organic farming are lower than by using Genetically Modified (GM) seed, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the negligible input cost makes it a profitable business, Jairam said.
“Till three years ago, I would earn up to Rs 27,000 per acre when I used GM hybrid seeds but the input cost would be around Rs 20,000 due to expensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers. “Now, I earn around Rs 20,000 per acre but the input cost has reduced to just Rs 5,000,” Jairam said.

Farmers like Jairam produce bio-fertiliser for free from manure and agricultural waste from their fields and pesticides from extracts of medicinal plants such as neem, karanj (pongamia), ratanjot (alkanet root), besharam (ipomoea) and custard apple leaves along with cow urine.

Non-profits Aga Khan Foundation and Action for Social Advancement are helping the C&A Foundation in promoting and procuring organic cotton.

According to the Union Agriculture Ministry, 30.01 million bales (of 170 kg each) of cotton — roughly 5.1 billion tonnes — were produced in the country in 2015-16. The Ministry, however, doesn’t give out the breakup of organically grown cotton vs other methods. IANS

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Ankur Kalita