As the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) program combines a larger part of Asia under new representative Ganesh Kasekar, the fastest-growing region in terms of certification gets a fresh perspective. The need for change is a timely one following a recent discovery of corruption in the supply chain of organic cotton in India, and a disruption of all processes due to the extreme effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region.
The GOTS initiative is a stringent global standard for the entire post-harvest processing of cotton, from field to finished product. The certification, which is particularly important in these regions that are large production centers for both cotton and textiles, has been growing dramatically, up more than 67 percent in India, from 1,441 GOTS certified facilities in 2015 to 2,411 in 2019; 469 percent in Bangladesh, from 210 to 1,194, and 94 percent in Pakistan from 142 to 276 over the same period.
For comparison, in 2019 China had 48 GOTS certified facilities, Germany 565, Portugal 301 and the U.K. 75.
Here, Mumbai-based Kasekar speaks with Sourcing Journal about the immediate priorities in the region and some of the key issues ahead.
Sourcing Journal: India leads the world in terms of GOTS-certified facilities, almost five times that of China. What have the changes really been in terms of sustainability in India in the past four years?
Ganesh Kasekar: The acceptance of the sustainability norms has been on a tremendous rise in India for the last four to five years. Sustainability in textiles has a fast pace of change because of renewal, updates in the sustainability standards, and the industry has changed equally fast to cope with these changes. The fashion industry has always been on forefront for accepting the sustainability norms from business perspective.
SJ: What is happening with the tracing back of the corrupt material within the cotton supply chain in India?
G.K. : GOTS has already taken serious and concrete corrective actions on that front. A dedicated global team is active and looking to finding a solution for such activities.
SJ: What do you see as the major bottlenecks in the supply chain in India?
G.K.: The Indian textile industry is highly fragmented and is largely dominated by the unorganized sector along with small- and medium-size players. There are multiple bottlenecks from points like taxation policies, a high attrition level in the garment industry, limited access to the latest technologies, and it also has significant issues of social and environmental parameters.
Apart from that there are other issues like the cost, availability and shortage of raw materials, environmental issues, infrastructure bottlenecks, and shortage of labor, which is sometimes seasonal.
SJ: What is India’s share of the global market for organic cotton production? Has this been growing substantially?
G.K.: India happens to be the world’s largest supplier of organic cotton. Close to 240,000 metric tons of global organic cotton were produced in 2019,3 and out of this India holds a 51 percent share. The second position is occupied by China with a distant 17 percent, followed by Kyrgyzstan and Turkey at 10 percent each. Tajikistan (5 percent), Tanzania (2 percent) and the U.S. (2 percent) follow.
SJ: Your job includes the additional areas of Sri Lanka and Pakistan added on to India and Bangladesh?
G.K.: The apparel sector is growing in Pakistan. There are new business ventures from China entering the Pakistan market. Sri Lanka on other hand is excellent on all fronts. Support from the U.S. and EU has significantly helped the industry there. The industry is providing the largest job opportunity to Sri Lankans, and thereby they sustained the pandemic situation very effectively. Sri Lanka remains a top watch for the next two years.
Bangladesh is a completely textile-dependent country. Eighty-percent of their total exports is of textiles. It is the world’s second-largest apparel exporter. It will be interesting to see how Bangladesh maintains the pace and keeps developing.
SJ: How do you see things changing as a result of Covid-19?
G.K.: The challenge was accepted by major players as they changed the track from their regular fashion products to manufacturing of PPE products, with India and Sri Lanka becoming major sourcing hubs for PPE. Many players shall continue to execute orders in this category for the next few months.
The big challenge is the acceptance and long-term continuation of the new work and social norms with a new set of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ with respect to Covid-19. Yet it is inevitable, and the industry has to live through this.