Cotton Production for Food Security Income and Employment Generation






The textile industry has played an important role in Bangladesh's economy for a long time. Currently, the textile industry in Bangladesh accounts for 45 percent of all industrial employment and contributes 5 percent to the total national income. The industry employs nearly 4 million people, mostly women. A huge 78 percent of the country's export earnings come from textiles and apparel, according to the latest figures available. Bangladesh exports its apparel products worth nearly $5 billion per year to the United States, European Union (EU), Canada and other countries of the world. It is the sixth largest apparel supplier to the United States and EU countries. The basic raw material of textile sector is cotton. Bangladesh is the 2nd raw cotton importer of the world.

The cultivation of cotton (Gossypium Spp.) and its manufactures into textile has been practiced in the region since prehistoric time. The finest cotton fabric- Muslin once produced in medieval Bengal was famous through out the world. Cotton for producing Muslin was grown on high lands around Dhaka where most muslin handlooms were located. However, the production and trading of Muslin gradually declined during British rule ultimately resulting to closure of the industry by early nineteenth century. Later on, British Government attempted revival of cotton production in India and introduced American variety of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) but the farmers did not accept cotton as a commercial crop in Bengal region.

During Pakistan era, there had been limited effort to introduce cotton in this part (East Pakistan) with little support for research and development of the crop and consequently cotton remained confined within laboratory until early seventies. Importance of producing cotton domestically strongly surged soon after liberation of the country in 1971 when the supply of raw cotton was suspended from Pakistan.

Cotton (Gossypium sp.) is the major textile fiber used by man in the world and playing a key role in economic and social welfare. Cotton cultivated more than 80 countries of the world, which represents 2.5% of the all cultivated land. But among these ten countries China, India, USA, Russia, India, Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico and Sudan are accounted for 85-90%of the total production. The seed of cotton that is produced, has a demand both for food and industrial uses by producing oil from seed, and as a residual product, cotton seed meal, that is high protein content used as fish and livestock feed. After harvest of cotton, the plant is widely used as fuel as well as pulp or particle board production. After harvest of cotton, the plant is widely used as fuel wood that is scarce in Bangladesh. In the wake of increasing of environmental awareness, cotton has gained more global importance than ever before as people have renewed their liking for natural fiber.

Among the various field crops, cotton occupies a unique position in most of Asian countries. It provides food, feed, fiber and fuel. It sustained millions of people for their livelihood at farms, ginning factories, textile mills, edible oil and soap industry, etc. Cotton is therefore, rightly called the lifeblood of economy of many countries in Asia.

Raw cotton requirement and Production in Bangladesh

According to BTMA sources, Bangladesh requires 4-4.5 million bales (1bale = 182 kg or 400 pounds) of raw cotton in Bangladesh. It imports most of the cotton required by the spinning mills. Though among all the fiber crops, cotton is second important cash crop in Bangladesh. Around 2-3% of the national requirement is fulfilled through the local production (0.1 million bale), remaining 96-97% requirement is fulfilled by importing raw cotton from Uzbekistan (33%) India (23%), USA (13%), African countries (11%), Turkmenistan (6%), Australia (5%) and Pakistan (4%). (BTMA, 2015). In 2011-12 fiscal years we have produced 103 thousand bales and 2012-13 was 160 thousand bales. It is not possible to be self sufficient in raw cotton production as our raw cotton demand is very high and there is a land shortage for cotton production. But it can go for production initially 10 lac bales (short term vision) and finally 20 lac bales (long term vision) without hampering food production which is 50% of our national demand of raw cotton requirement and can save foreign currency of Tk.11000 core per annum. This is possible by special effort of the government, policy makers, good research and extension management as well as development of marketing channel among different stakeholders like Seed Company, private ginner, farmer's input traders etc. Need to develop good partnership between public and private sectors. Cotton is growing mainly in southeastern zone, middle zone and northern part of Bangladesh. It covers 33 districts of Bangladesh mainly Kushtia, Chuadanga, Jhenaidah, Mehepur, Magura, Jessore, Rangpur and Thakurgaon. After introduction of Chinese hybrid, cotton turned out to be the most economic crop in those areas.

Contribution of Textile Sector in National Economy

Bangladesh became second largest apparel producer in the world after China and Bangladesh will become largest readymade garments (RMG) manufacturer in the world. Cotton plays a key role in the national economy in terms of generation of direct and indirect employment in Agricultural and Industrial sectors. It creates Textile and Clothing industries constituting the largest manufacturing sub-sector in Bangladesh's economy. It employs over 5 million people of whom 80% are women, which is accounts for 13% of the national GDP with 40% of manufacturing value addition. 75% of total export earning comes from Textile Sector. In the fiscal year of 2014-15, Bangladesh had done 32 billion dollar worth of business through textile and RMG sector. Bangladesh ranks 2nd largest apparel producer in the world after China. Bangladesh is also 2nd raw cotton importer in the world. Cotton has produced a huge prospect for our county.

Contribution of Cotton in Food Security

Primary condition of food security is to produce own food by the farmers. But second option of food security is to increase purchasable power of the farmers. Presently cotton is highest profitable crop among high value crops of Bangladesh. In addition, cottonseed oil is edible oil which is a important food consumed directly by human. Oil cake, which is a bye product produced during oil extraction and used as animal and fish feed. In the last year, 2100 oilcake has been produced from 20 private ginning centers.

Income generation

The price of seed cotton per ton is Tk.30, 000.00. So the total income per ha is Tk. 2, 2 5000.00-270,000.00 (Taka two twenty five thousand to two lakh seventy five thousands). The production cost is Tk.75, 0000.00(sixty thousand) ha-1. So farmers have earned Tk. 125,000.00 (one lakh fifty thousand) only as net profits. This is a good profit among all the agricultural products in recent years. This income has very good significance on social and economic impact at the farmer's level.

Role of hill Cotton/Comilla Cotton in the income generation of Tribal people

Hill Cotton/Comilla Cotton is a short staple length, course fiber grown in three hill districts as Jhum crop, which has very good export value. Jhum is a mixed crop cultivated mainly in hill slopes where more than two crops are seeded in a pit and harvested sequentially. In general, 4-5 years interval is needed for further cultivation in the same land. The main crops cultivated in Jhum are Aus rice, Sesame, cotton, maize, marpha, chili and pumpkin. In three hill districts, huge area of land is under Jhum cultivation. If we can improve the variety and efficient management practice of cotton grown in hill area, economic development and improved livelihood of tribal farmers is possible. Cotton is only cash crop for tribal farmers. In this area, we need to address on a urgent basis so tribal farmers can go for better income generation.

Role of Cotton in Employment Generation

Employment generation in Spinning and RMG sector:

Our textile sector through spinning and RMG has been creating employment for 5 million people of which 80% are women. So cotton as well as Textile sector can also contribute in generating employment. In addition, through marketing and ginning of cotton can also create employment opportunity in the rural and urban area.
Employment generation at farmer's level through cotton production:

Presently, cotton is growing in 33 districts of Bangladesh and 35 thousand farmers are involved in production process from sowing to yield which is developed as the best employment opportunity in Bangladesh. As cotton is now a profitable crop so more farmers are increasingly interested to grow cotton. If we can increase cotton production and area for cotton production, the number of farmers will be increased and more people will get involved eventually.

Employment in private ginning industry:

Ginning is the process of separation of fiber and seed from seed cotton. Farmers harvest seed cotton from the cotton field. The private ginning industry is involved to purchase seed cotton from the farmers through local traders and separate seed and fiber through ginning process and send the fiber to spinning mill by making bale and seed is used for different value addition product like edible oil, cotton oil cake for animal and fish feed, used in soap industry etc. For the processing of seed cotton many workers mostly women are employed. Expeller also is used for oil extraction from seed as crude oil after refine is being used as edible oil. Many men and women are used as workers in these industries. So if the cotton production is increased the number of ginning industry will be increased and scope of employment generation will be increased.

Low Cholesterol edible Oil from Cotton

Edible oil is important component in food chain. Edible oil is extracted from cottonseed by expeller. Pakistan, 68% of the edible oil requirement is fulfilled from cottonseed. Uzbekistan, India and other CIS countries is also big countries of cotton seed oil producer and consumer of the world. This oil contains more nutritional value than any other edible oils like soybean, mustard oil and sunflower oil. There are 18 crude oil crusher in Kushtia, Jhenaidah and Jessore districts and one oil refinery has established in last year at Kushtia district. In 2014-15 around 600 tons of cotton has produced and marketed in those area.

Profitability of Cotton

Cotton is a highly competitive and long duration crop, it requires 6 months from sawing seeds to yield cotton. Within this time our farmers can grow two crops from the same land through which he can generate more income from same land. High and medium high land is suitable for cotton production where many high value crops can grow. During early and mid ninety's, the area and production was increasing but from late ninety's the acreage and production was drastically dropped. During that time cotton price was also low in international market. So, cotton was not profitable for most of the farmers. That's why the farmers were migrating to grow other short duration high value crops like vegetables, wheat, maize, potato, banana, flower etc.

Role of private seed company under Public-Private partnership

Three private seed company Supreme Seed Company, Lalteer Seed Company and ACI ltd has importing cotton hybrid seed with the assistance of Cotton Development Board. The average production of hybrid is 3.5-4 tons ha-1 of seed cotton in the farmer's level. The Ginning Out Turn (GOT) and fiber quality of these hybrids are better than our existing CDB released variety. Duration of crop and bollworm infestation is lower for hybrid cotton in comparison to local variety. So, the combined effect of yield and price could make cotton crop profitable to the farmers and many farmers have come back to grow cotton. Importance should be given for both horizontal and vertical development. Finally Chinese hybrid imported by Supreme seed is performing better and continued to grow in the field.

Cotton Oil Cake is a source of animal /fish Feed/ organic matter:

The cotton oil cake is a by-product of cottonseed and it is produced during oil extraction. The oil cake is generally used for livestock feeding and fish feed. Cotton oil cake has high demand in market for multiple uses with high percentage of protein. Cotton oil cake is also used as organic fertilizer like mustard oil cakes even it is better than mustard oil cake. There was 2100 tons of oil cake produced in 2014-2015.

Cotton plant (after harvest) is a source of Fuel /pulp/particle board:

Cotton plant is a good source of fuel, which is scarce in most of the developing countries. One hectare of land can provide 3000-4000 kg fuel wood through which farmers' can earn extra income. India has been producing eco-friendly particle board by the cotton stalk. Recently BJMC is going to install a machine with the technical assistance of China, good quality offset paper will be produced by mixture of cotton stalk and jute plant (50% cotton stalk+50% jute plant) and this is a value addition for cotton.

Bt Cotton

Biosafety rule and guideline already has approved by Government of Bangladesh. CDB is conducting contained trial in BARI green house with approval of National Committee on Biosafety (NCB) in 2015. Bt cotton, with the boom in cotton production in the last eight years, India has become transformed from a net importer to a net exporter of cotton by biotech cotton variety. So Bt cottonseed will be available to the farmers in near future. By this additional production of raw cotton thousands of farmers will be able to earn more money and can go for accessibility to food. With the introduction of Biotech cotton (Bt hybrid) can produce double from the same area of land as well as resistant to bollworms and other chewing insects, which can save production cost and can increase the net income of the farmer. In Bangladesh 2.42 lakh hectares of land are suitable for cotton production, which can be brought under Bt hybrid cotton cultivation and increase our production and can fulfill 50% of the national raw cotton requirement.

CDB Vision:

CDB target to increase cotton production through the introduction hybrid cotton, it will provide more fiber, edible oil, animal /fish feed of organic matter and fuel/pulp, particle board which will contribute in the economy of our rural people. CDB is planning to develop own hybrid instead of imported hybrid seed by the private company. As hybrid seed imported by the company is of higher price which is difficult to afford by the farmers. Government is trying to strengthen cotton research. CDB has become the member of National Agricultural Research System (NARS).

Comparatively less fertile and as well as char land where other crops are not growing well can be used for cultivating cotton in Bangladesh. Out of 2.42 lakh hectares of suitable land in Bangladesh, one lakh hectares of land could be brought under hybrid cotton primarily within 2015-16 easily we can produce l0 lakh bale fiber/lint (25% of the requirement) through which we can save Tk. 3200 core per year from raw cotton import. But if we include income from edible oil, oil cake as well as animal and fish feed and fuel including all value additions, the income will be 3400 crore. In Vision 2021, if two lakh hectare land could be brought under cotton production with 80% hybrid then including fiber and other value addition we can contribute 10851 crore in the national economy. To achieve the vision 2021 both vertical and horizontal growth will be necessary and the source of land taken by replacing Tobacco cultivation , Char area, cultivation in Hill Valley, use of hill slope used by Jhum cultivation, extension in saline area of southern part and using cotton based cropping pattern.

This is shown in the following tables with area, production and other value additions:

To achieve the above mentioned goal, source of land in the following way:

Source of land

To achieve the above-mentioned goal, land for the cotton production will be available in the following sources:

 Replacement of Tobacco area
 Cultivation in Char area
 Cultivation in Hill Valley
 Use of hill slope by Jhum cultivation
 Extension in saline area of Southern part
 Cotton based cropping pattern
 Cotton in Agroforesty system

From the above discussion it is clear that if the Government and policy makers are more attentive to support cotton production, cotton can contribute to food security, income and employment generation of the country. Of course, it needs Government's strong political will power and policy.


Cotton provides food, feed, fiber and fuel. It contributes in food security by increasing by purchasable power of the farmers. It creates income and employment, which has significant impact on economic and social aspect. Cotton plays a key role in the national economy of different countries that is why it is called White Gold for many countries of the world. Government and other policy makers should develop positive support to boost up the cotton production. 



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