Turns out much of the cotton that yarn manufacturers in Tamil Nadu were sourcing from the Gujarat region of India is being debased with comber noil—the cotton waste product, or shorter fibers that typically get extracted during the cotton combing process.
And in response to discovery of the lower quality cotton, manufacturers are turning to West Africa for their cotton supply, India’s The Economic Times reported. Nearly 43 mills in the Coimbatore and Tirupur textile hubs have said they would replace their Gujarat supply with African cotton.
In a letter to the government, secretary general of the Southern India Mills Association K. Selvaraju, wrote that Gujarat cotton buying is down 40 percent to its usual level because of the finding, the Times reported.
With the mills buying less cotton from Gujarat, eight West African nations, including Mali, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, could soon make up the balance.
“Imports can be booked in January, all the way up to June at a steady price from West African countries. This will provide continuous supply of the same fibre at lower interest rates of around 2.5% a year,” the Times reported ITF, a southern India-based entrepreneur hub, as saying.
Gujarat has long been India’s leading cotton producing state, selling 12 million bales a year, two-thirds of which generally goes to Tamil Nadu. Gujarat cotton can command a premium over cotton from competing Indian states because it requires fewer chemicals for dyeing, for one.
But news of the comber noil contamination has cost Gujarat some of its cotton market share.
Some ginners are not at all surprised by the news—they know the bad practice exists.
Anand Popat, secretary of the Saurashtra Ginners Association and head of the 47-year old Jalaram Cotton and Proteins factory in Gujarat, said a few ginners are degrading their cotton and ruining conditions for the rest of the industry.
In addition to the noil, Popat told the Times a pink worm infestation and lack of water for the irrigation also spoiled the quality of a large number of cotton bales and that some ginners are still trying to sell it off.
For unknowing buyers, sifting through good cotton in Gujarat’s spot markets could prove challenging.