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New Delhi: The central government on Wednesday issued Quality Control Order (QCO) for cotton bales, aimed at checking imports of sub-standard cotton and improve the quality of India’s textile exports.

A QCO ensures the quality of a product by mandating conformity of standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Items under these orders are not allowed to be produced, sold or imported without the BIS mark.

QCO for cotton bales assumes significance as the Indian textile industry is largely dependent on cotton, which is a crucial part of the textile value chain. Mismatch in demand and supply during the current financial year had driven domestic cotton prices to a record high of 1.10 lakh per candy (1 candy = 356 kg). This led to disruption in textile production.

The Narendra Modi-led government has issued QCO on a range of products from toys to leather footwear to curb substandard imports and boost exports.

“Union Minister of Textiles, Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs and Food & Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal approved the Quality Control Order (QCO) for mandatory certification of cotton bales under specification No. IS12171: 2019-Cotton Bales to augment supply of good quality cotton to the textile industry," the ministry of textiles said in a statement.

Mint had reported on 31 January that the government was looking at bringing in QCO for cotton bales and viscose yarn to boost exports and curb imports of sub-standard products.

Textile secretary Rachna Shah in an interview with Mint had said that there have been instances of sub-standard items coming in from other countries and QCOs seek to address the problem.

Goyal pointed out that the quality check of domestically produced cotton is beneficial for farmers and industry and that the branding of Indian Cotton will add value to the entire value chain.

The move comes amid stagnant cotton production in the country. Driven by record high prices amid a global shortage last year, New Delhi’s cotton import bill surged 200% to surpass the $1bn mark in the 10 months to January, official data showed.

In its latest projection, the Cotton Association of India (CAI) has cut the country’s 2022-23 cotton output estimate to 33 million bales (each of 170 kg), down by 925,000 bales from its earlier forecast.

Stagnant cotton production is especially worrying as prices of textiles have risen consistently over the last three years, the Economic Survey 2023 said, adding that clothing and footwear were among the major contributors of headline inflation in FY23.

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