Corporate / SME | In-Depth Analysis | Interviews

ICAC’s 81st Plenary Meeting: Conversation with Textile Commissioner Ms. Roop Rashi

Published: January 12, 2024
Author: TEXTILE VALUE CHAIN

                                              Ms. Roop Rashi

                                        Textile Commissioner

The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) is a global organisation consisting of representatives from countries involved in the production, consumption, and trading of cotton. Established in 1939, the ICAC Secretariat was established in 1946. Its primary objective is to foster a thriving and sustainable cotton industry. With an aim to realise this mission, the ICAC serves the cotton and textile community by actively advocating for the industry, facilitating the exchange of knowledge, promoting innovation, cultivating partnerships, and offering a platform for worldwide discussions on matters of strategic importance related to cotton.

From December 2nd to December 5th, 2023, the ICAC held its 81st Plenary Meeting at the Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai. During this event, Ms. Roop Rashi, the Textile Commissioner for the Ministry of Textiles in India, participated in a conversation with the TVC Media Team on December 4th, 2023.

As the Textile Commissioner, her primary focus has been to strengthen the Indian Textile Value Chain. To achieve this goal, she has been working on identifying gaps and implementing strategies to improve credit flow, enhance technological capacities, and foster collaboration among various segments of the value chain. This involves engaging with stakeholders from the Textile Machinery, Fibres, production, International agencies, branding initiatives, academia, and trade. Ms.Roop Rashi brings a wealth of experience in policy and execution from her previous roles in Development Administration and Policy Programme Implementation in the Commodity sector under the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India.

Could you please tell me about your vision and purpose for hosting it in India for the first time?

No, this marks the fifth occurrence. Now, I would like to expound on the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC). According to Eric Trachtenberg, ICAC can be regarded as the United Nations of the cotton industry. With a membership of 28 nations, the ongoing conference and plenary session boasts participation from approximately 400 delegates representing 35 different countries. India, being one of the founding members of ICAC, is hosting the event for the fifth time, a matter of great pride, particularly given that it is taking place in Mumbai. The Ministry of Textiles has established an organising committee, which I have the privilege of chairing. Notably, we have enlisted the partnership of industry stakeholders, such as the Cotton Association of India and the Cotton Corporation of India. 

It is worth noting that cotton has held immense significance for India as a founding member since 1939. As an intergovernmental entity encompassing trade and industry representatives, ICAC serves as a platform for the comprehensive discussion and advancement of cotton-related matters, spanning from farming to foreign trade, as our esteemed Prime Minister advocates. It is worth mentioning that the previous conference, held in 2015, prioritised value addition within the cotton sector, which has subsequently prompted a notable emphasis on sustainability in recent years. Consequently, our focus has evolved from purely economic concerns to ecological considerations. In this regard, our intensive collaboration with renowned experts from academia, policy-making bodies, and funding agencies, mirroring the unity featured in the United Nations, promises to fortify our influence within India’s cotton sector.

Given that India possesses the largest cotton cultivation area globally, we seek not only to address our challenges but also to propose solutions for other participating nations, which encompass the United States of America, Africa, Australia as origin and Countries from EU Asia also. The overarching theme of the conference revolves around local solutions driving innovation, ultimately resulting in global impact. It is widely acknowledged that cotton has been an integral part of our history for thousands of years, and numerous solutions have been devised to address challenges faced by small-scale farmers. The objective of this forum, therefore, is to cultivate a comprehensive approach to problem-solving that benefits all stakeholders. Hence, we have aptly chosen the tagline “magical cotton connects continents” for this significant event, expressing our aspiration to engage in productive dialogues and collaborative efforts aimed at preserving our planet.

Globally, there’s an ongoing battle between cotton and synthetic materials. The prevalence of synthetic fabrics is on the rise, while the demand for cotton is declining. This situation begs the question: What are your thoughts on cotton’s current standing?

In my current role, engaging in a dialogue relating to rivalry between two specific fibres is not prudent. 

The textile industry, as a whole, is a vast spectrum. Technologically speaking the spectrum covers low tech, high impact, niche Handloom sector, technically strong vast powerloom sector which provides >70% fabric requirements and high tech intensive Technical Textiles. It  serves a vast consumer base, catering to diverse requirements ranging from apparel and functional textiles  technical applications. While doing so it provides huge employment and livelihood support. As such, due to reasonably stable growth of demand and applications, there is enough in the pie for all to grab and grow. It is paramount, therefore, to avoid engaging in such competitive discourse between cotton and man-made fibres or any other similar comparisons. As such there should be quality assurance while serving the consumer. Promotion of one fibre over other should not be based on propaganda rather I would like to emphasize the importance of promoting transparency by effectively disseminating information to all stakeholders.

Recently, I participated in a compelling session led by Dr. Keshav Kranti, where he shed light on a significant misconception surrounding cotton. Contrary to popular belief, cotton does not excessively deplete water resources, as it is commonly assumed. Dr. Kranti presented empirical data illustrating that cotton is sustainable. Further through carbon sequestration, it possesses the potential to contribute positively to environmental sustainability. Hence, we must recognise the need for various fibres, such as cotton, silk, and jute, within our industry and their relative suitability even in the apparel segment due to differential climatic zones/ functional requirements. For example, focus on sporttech need not be to reduce use of cotton…the requirement caters to different time in the same day for a tropical country user.  As such, demographics and increase in ‘fitness’ requirements help augment requirement for Athleisure (apparently growing at stupendous 40% year on year in India) and consequently create strong demand pull for MMF. This does not need to be done by running down the natural fibres.

Further the strategy to address sustainability concerns for natural fibres and MMF have to be positioned also differentially. Since fibre to fibre recycling of post-consumer waste is possible only once in case of MMF, I am told. Hence for true circularity, the recycling applications should cross boundaries of Textiles and may need to align to other uses/ sectors.

Essentially, each stage of the textile manufacturing processes should align with principles of  responsible production to address the sustainability/ circularity challenges we face on a global scale.

I kindly urge the Indian textile community to prioritise the dissemination of accurate and transparent information within our sector while refraining from engaging in competitive rivalries. Instead, let us collectively strive for collaboration in the interest of humanity, given the substantial demand size. Our objective should be to enhance the quality and assurance of our products and effectively communicate their value to our customers.

Can you provide some information about the Kasturi cotton that Ministry of Textiles introduced during this period?

I would like to highlight the exceptional work carried out by the Ministry of Textiles in collaboration with the industry. In July 2022, Hon’ble Minister exhorted Industry to join and give push to the Kasturi Brand launched on the World Cotton day – October 7, 2020, for which registration of Logo  was done by the Textile Committee. It is a great honour for me to have been involved in the collective efforts of the entire team where initially we set the framework of equal contribution between Government and Private sector. This venture represents a commendable public-private partnership, with contributions from various stakeholders, including farmers, ginners, and spinners, who have collectively played a pivotal role throughout the entire process. As such initiative began several years ago with the diligent efforts of the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and the Textile Committee, which established comprehensive protocols. The focus of our brand has evolved into a more process-oriented approach to get a brand identity for our cotton . This Quality assurance would help reinforce the principle as well as augment returns for all in the value chain from producing farmers onwards. 

Furthermore, we aspire to create an all-encompassing cotton ecosystem that attracts innovators, fosters knowledge sharing, and provides solutions to enhance productivity and strengthen the cotton textile value chain. This endeavour has been supported and synergised by the esteemed Minister Piyush Goyal in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, and we are delighted to have successfully implemented pilot projects that have significantly increased productivity. Building upon these accomplishments, our next focus is to ensure unparalleled quality assurance. Under the remarkable leadership of Mr. Suresh Kotak, Veteran Cotton person and Chairman Textile Advisory Group,  who has been instrumental in this initiative, our commitment to product excellence and branding remains steadfast. 

We emphasize transparency, as evidenced by the worldwide launch during Inauguration of Plenary Meeting of ICAC. This illustrates India’s willingness to go the extra mile for the betterment of the global community leveraging technology and Transparency .

Is it accurate to affirm that Kasturi cotton is essentially a brand of India?

In essence, the brand in question hails from India and stands as the foremost of its kind. Notably, while we have witnessed the emergence of branded cotton such as Giza and Pima, these particular brands are primarily associated with specific locations. In contrast, this pioneering brand places great emphasis on both the process and the quality of its offerings. Meticulous brand protocols have been firmly established, and we anticipate a highly favourable reception. Naturally, it is to be expected that building recognition and inspiring confidence amongst the Consumer may need some time and constant effort. However, once these milestones are accomplished, India will undoubtedly emerge as a beacon of success and prosperity within the world Cotton community reinforcing position as a reliable supplier of assured quality cotton reflected in all products from yarn to final goods..

Will it compete with the existing Shankar 6 that is already present?

No. According to my understanding, and our experts can verify this information, we are actively pursuing enhanced levels of quality. Specifically, we are focused on utilising long staple 29 cotton while also considering factors such as staple strength, micronaire strength, and contamination levels. By refining these aspects, we aim to provide more precise and distinct qualities that will be seamlessly integrated into the subsequent stages of the value chain. Consequently, the outcome will be a product of superior quality that will be made available to consumers, thereby ensuring that the inherent value of Indian craftsmanship is successfully conveyed. It is worth noting that this endeavour is not limited to a specific region; rather, our primary aim is to enhance processing quality. This is where blockchain technology comes into play, as it allows for a transparent record of our cotton sourcing and the final goods put on the shelf.

What is the outcome you are expecting from this plenary meeting?

From this plenary meeting, we anticipate a substantial amount of collaboration and synergy. For the plenary Souvenir, we received blessings of Hon’ble President of India, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Hon’ble Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Hon’ble Union Minister of Commerce &Industry, Textiles, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Hon’ble Minister of State for Textile and Railways. This itself is testimony of the importance ‘Cotton ecosystem’ holds across governance. Thanks to the guidance of our esteemed Minister, we have successfully mobilised action across various departments and have secured the participation of numerous states. Notably, we received farmer success stories from 7 out of 10 major cotton growing states, a significant achievement as it marks the first time such widespread engagement has taken place.We also had State Representatives in Inaugural affirming Horizontal as well as Vertical integration of approach for march to shared vision of Growth. During G20 presidency, Our Hon’ble Prime Minister inspired the World leaders for enhanced collaboration. We look to take the principle forward for all in Cotton too.

 Additionally, we see enhanced participation of stakeholders in various sessions. Consequently, we are poised to benefit from an abundance of knowledge, resources, and possibilities of funding assistance from various sessions and organisations geared towards providing effective solutions for our small-scale farmers. We also have showcased some success stories of our farmers for the benefit of others in the Cotton ecosystem worldwide. Considering the diverse nature of our farming clusters, tailored solutions are imperative, and we welcome the input and experiences of attendees from different regions. Together, we can pave a brighter future for the cotton industry.

Let us Converse and Converge to Conserve our mother earth.

Conclusion

The interview with Ms. Roop Rashi, Textile Commissioner for the Ministry of Textiles in India, shed light on the International Cotton Advisory Committee’s (ICAC) 81st Plenary Meeting held in Mumbai. Ms Rashi emphasised the importance of collaboration and transparent information dissemination in the textile industry, urging stakeholders to prioritise quality and sustainability. She also discussed the Kasturi cotton brand, a pioneering initiative in India that focuses on process and quality. The brand aims to offer superior-quality cotton/ products to consumers, conveying the value of Indian craftsmanship. Ms Rashi highlighted that the brand is not in competition with existing brands like Shankar 6 but rather develops recognition of long staple by enhanced processing quality. The plenary meeting aimed to generate collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and solutions for the cotton industry, with a particular focus on supporting small-scale farmers and tailoring solutions to the diverse farming clusters in India as well as all origins by sharing available knowledge and technology resources. The position of ICAC, as the intergovernmental body, would also be useful to navigate issues of concerns to value added segments relating to standards/ certifications/ need for harmonization/ removing redundancies in various frameworks addressing same/similar concerns etc. along the value chain which impinges on the cost competitiveness. 

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