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Cotton shortage prompts spinning mills to switch to man-made fiber

Dilip Kumar Jha/Mumbai 13 May 19 | 01:53 PM

In a major boost to synthetic textile players, spinning mills have started increasing the use of man-made fibre to keep their fabric cost immune to rising cotton prices.

Industry sources estimate that India’s use of man-made fibre in fabric blends has increased to 45 per cent over the last few months from 40 per cent earlier. The use of cotton in fabric blends has declined to 55 per cent from 60 per cent earlier. Despite the shift, India is far below the global average of man-made fibre use of 70 per cent in blended fabrics.

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Cotton prices have jumped to Rs 13,200 per quintal now from Rs 11,800 per quintal about a month ago. Comparatively, manmade fibres are 30-40 per cent cheaper.                                           

India is gradually catching up with the global trend of a bigger share of man-made fibres than natural fibres in textile blends. This will boost textile exports -- especially in the sportswear segment in which the country has been almost absent and small countries have gained a large market share.

Madhu Sudhan Bhageria, Chairman and Managing Director, Filatex India, said “The preference of consumers is moving from cotton to man-made fibres like polyester, given the increasing demand for casual-wear and sports-wear. The decreasing acreage of cotton cultivation in the country is also contributing towards the shift. Recent capacity addition by synthetic textile players is the biggest proof of an increase in demand for polyester from both domestic and international markets."

Echoing Bhageria's view, R K Dalmia, President, Century Textiles and Industries, said “India is a cotton growing country with a favourable tropical weather. Hence, the use of cotton in India is high compared to the rest of the world. Now, there's an increasing demand for synthetic textiles among consumers, which is driving mills to produce more of man-made fibre blended products."

Cotton Association of India (CAI), the apex industry body, has revised downwards India’s 2018-19 cotton output for the fourth time to 31.5 million bales (of 170 kgs each), which is a decline of 14 per cent from the output of 36.5 million bales reported last year. 

Atul Ganatra, President, CAI, said “Scarcity of water in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and uprooting of cotton plants by farmers in about 70-80 per cent area without waiting for third and fourth round of pickings are the main reasons for the decline in cotton crop output this year. With overall cotton consumption estimated at 31.5 million bales, exports and carryover stocks are set to be managed from carry forward stocks from the last year and imported."

Availability of quality cotton has been a major issue for Indian spinning mills due to lower production in India following drought in its major cultivating states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh last year. A lack of moisture forced farmers to suspend picking of cotton in the field after the second of four rounds. Quality of cotton was very poor due to sporadic picking in the third round in some parts of the drought-ridden states.

Man-made fibre is derived from crude oil and, therefore, abundantly available across the world. Moreover, man-made fibre is substantially cheaper than cotton. Consumers opting for fabrics with synthetic blends find them cheaper.

Ujwal Lahoti, Chairman, Cotton Textile Export Promotion Council (Texprocil), said, “Some spinning mills in the South Indian states including Tamil Nadu have started using manmade fibre again after a wide gap of several years. Traditionally, they were using manmade fibre but had shifted to cotton about a decade ago. They have again switched to manmade fibre."

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