Indian farmers have been quite buoyant about organic cotton cultivation as the input costs have come down providing a decent yield. The growing demand for organic cotton from apparel companies worldwide has encouraged 1000+ farmers in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to adopt eco-farming and grow the cotton making use of pesticides and bio-fertilizers produced from medicinal plants.

The farming community has tied up with several non-profits in the country to push organic cotton farming in India so as to purchase more sustainable raw material for its business operation. Although yields from organic farming are comparatively lower with Genetically Modified (GM) seed, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, the input cost has been kept very low making it a profitable venture. Farmers produce bio-fertilizer using manure and agri-waste from their field and pesticides from extracts of medicinal plants like karanj (Pongamia), neem, besharam (Ipomoea), ratanjot (alkanet root) and custard apple, in addition to cow urine.

Non-profits such as Action for Social Advancement and Aga Khan Foundation are assisting the C&A Foundation in encouraging and purchasing organic cotton.

The Union Agriculture Ministry states that 30.01 million bales (of 170 kg each) of cotton -- approx. 5.1 billion tonne – were manufactured in 2015-16 in the country. India, at 60,184 tonnes, stood tall when it comes to organic cotton production in the world in 2015-16, making up 56 percent of the total production of 107,980 tonnes. Madya Pradesh alone accounted for 24 percent, while organic cotton makes up for less than one percent of global cotton production. Hybrid seeds for organic farming were offered free of cost for the first three years by the C&A Foundation as a kind of incentive to make them self-sustaining. Though the farmer has to pay for the seeds, the initial input costs may not be as expensive as procuring pesticides and bio-fertilizers.

The farmers in the capital city of Bhopal were paid Rs 200-300 more per quintal as opposed to the government rates. And there is that effect of climatic changes globally that is driving several brands to be more responsible and go for sustainable alternatives. Growing eco-consciousness among brands has led them to go for sustainable materials.

Organic cotton production consumes 93 percent less water in comparison to conventional cotton cultivation. Also, the climate change is of 338.5kg CO2 by organic cotton against 680.2 kg CO2 equivalent of traditional cotton. This has led to increased demand for the organic material. The C&A Foundation supports any cultivator who wants to switch to organic through capacity building and obtain certifications, which helps in connecting with the existing markets.

Though issues exist such as a dearth of input agencies, non-availability of seeds, poor market connectivity for organic farming, the foundation is looking to bring in all the stakeholders under a single roof. The foundation is also helping the farmers with a fixed market price for organic cotton cultivation. Also, improvement of available markets, value chain or supply chain may benefit organic cotton growing in the long run.

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