Faced with the challenge of raising its domestic cotton production in order to keep up with the demands of its growing textile industry, India – currently the world’s largest cotton producer – increased its cotton imports by 75% in the 2022/23 season. Brazil got only 4% of this market and wants to increase this share by investing in high quality and contamination-free cotton.  

“There is potential for growth in India because Brazil’s cotton picking is 100% mechanized which ensures contamination-free lint. This is the main product sought by many Indian textile mills”, pointed out Marcelo Duarte Monteiro, Director of International Relations at the Brazilian Cotton Growers Association (Abrapa).  

Last week, Mr. Monteiro took part in a technical tour to Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat. In addition to meeting farmers, and visiting gins and mills, there was also a meeting with Indian government officials, promoted by the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) as part of its 81st Plenary Meeting.  

Mr. Monteiro was able to see in person the country’s efforts to speed up the growth of its textile industry. One of the things the government has done is to increase investment in order to raise yields on the Indian cotton farms. It’s a huge challenge since the average yield is currently 420 kilos per hectare (kg/ha), whilst in Brazil it was 1,931 kg/ha in the 2022/23 growing season.  

“Indian farms have, on average, a planted area of 2 hectares. The government subsidizes production with a policy of minimum prices and taxes on imports”, explained Mr. Monteiro.

With the Indian government’s influential role in this sector being a significant factor, Abrapa and the Brazilian Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Mr. Carlos Fávaro, made a formal request in October for exemption of import duty on Brazilian cotton. The aim is for Brazil to get the same tax treatment as Australia, which is already exempt from the 11% import duty.  

Abrapa’s Director of International Relations is also the coordinator of Cotton Brazil, a brand that represents Brazilian cotton on a global scale and has India among its ten priority countries. This enterprise is a joint enterprise in partnership with the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex Brasil) and the National Cotton Shippers Association (Anea).  

The relations between these two countries connects two major players with enormous potential for growth. In the case of India, cotton farming is an ancient tradition going back to 3000BC which helps to explain its current status. It is the largest producer in the world with the largest number of farmers (more than 9 million, according to the ICAC).  

With a forecasted  harvest of 5.4 million tonnes in the current season, which began in June, India has the fourth largest textile industry in the world. In 2021, the sector generated US$41.4 billion in revenue from the export of cotton products, corresponding to 4.7% of the country’s total.  

Meanwhile, Brazil is the third largest producer in the world, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and is the second largest exporter. Estimates from the Brazilian National Cotton Shippers Association (Anea) indicate that between July 2023 and June 2024, exports will reach a total of 2.4 million tonnes – 60% more than in the previous season.