Meghalaya is home to many fibre crops, Cotton is the most widely grown fibre crop in the region. In Meghalaya, cotton is considered as the popular profit crop and has got maximum land allocation for the cultivation of the same. Cotton cultivation is done in few districts of Meghalaya, however around 90% of cultivation happens in the Garo Hills district. The total area amounts to more than 7500 hectares of land.
Cotton from Meghalaya is supplied to other major parts of the country for the production of different fabrics and is sold in the mainstream market. Most of the country does not know Meghalaya as a cotton producing state. Cotton Trading has been affluent in the region before the time of independence of our country. In old times, trading mainly happened through the Comilla markets located in Bangladesh. This is the reason why cotton from Garo hills is also known as “Comilla Cotton”.
After Independence, the trading through the Comilla markets have stopped, however the demand for the cotton produced in Meghalaya has grown immensely mainly due to the shortage of cotton in other parts of the country. In the near past, cotton from Meghalaya has made its way to accomplished markets of our country in the form of ladies apparel such as lehenga, choli, saree etc.
Varieties of Cotton:
The variety found in the Garo Hills district of Meghalaya is Gossypium arboreum commonly called tree cotton. Gossypium arboreum is a species native to India. There are other varieties as well such as Gossypium hirsutum commonly known as upland or Mexican cotton, Gossypium barbadense also known as extra-long staple (ELS) cotton and Gossypium herbaceum also known as Levant cotton. The cotton from Meghalaya is well known for its malleability and endurance. Due to the durable nature of Gossypium arboreum cotton of Garo Hills, sometimes it is mixed with wool also.
Problems faced by Meghalaya:
There are certain problems around cotton production in Meghalaya. The cotton from Meghalaya is not able to get the acclaim it deserves because of the lack of supply of good quality seeds and other needed inputs. Other complications include scarcity of knowledge and awareness on the farmer’s part and non-availability of proper scientific kit for production etc.
Another dilemma is faced by the seller community, where they have to sell their cotton at a very less price compared to the market selling price. The reason behind this is unavailability of collection or procurement centres in the region.
Future prospects of Cotton:
The prevailing conditions in Meghalaya is very useful for organic farming and cotton is a great candidate for organic cultivation. Also cotton cultivation can be done in the hill slopes of Meghalaya, where in the land area covered is more and the number of people required for farming is less; which is ideal for Meghalaya.
Also proper management can be arranged on the government’s part for better management of the produced cotton in the region. Which in return will lead to economic returns for the farmers and sellers of Meghalaya. The native cotton can be sold at a much higher price at par with hybrid or Bt cotton varieties.
More and more cotton cultivation should be encouraged in the region by providing encouragement and incentives to the interested farmers. By doing so there will be employment opportunities for the youth of Meghalaya and also increase the agricultural income of the region.