Cotton is one of the most important cash crops in Bangladesh. The garment industry in Bangladesh is completely dependent on this cotton, most of which is imported from abroad. At present, Bangladesh is the second largest cotton importer in the world. In the fiscal year 2018-19, our country has imported about 61 lakh bales of cotton with an estimated market value of Tk 40,000 crore. Cotton is a fibrous crop and edible oil and khail are available as by-products from its seeds. Cotton seeds provide 15-16% edible oil and 70% high quality khail. About 100 ginning machines have been set up in 16 ginning industries in the country by private sector and 15-20 ginning machines have been set up to extract oil from cotton seeds. A privately owned refinery has been set up in Kushtia to refine crude oil into edible oil. About 600 to 700 metric tons of edible oil is produced every year. Cotton husk is used as an excellent quality food for fish and cattle. After the production of cotton crop, cotton plants are used as fuel. Farmers save money by using dried cotton as fuel or by selling cotton as fuel. From cotton seed sowing to seed cotton processing and ginning, employment opportunities are created for the workers. Moreover, in the lands where cotton is cultivated, the fall of cotton leaves increases the fertility of the land, which reduces the production cost of the next crop of cotton and increases the yield of the crop. Farmers get 3.5-4.5 tons of seed cotton with a market value of Tk 2.25-2.72 lakh at a cost of Tk 75-90 thousand per hectare. As a result, the farmer cultivates 1 hectare of cotton and gets a profit of 1.5-1.9 lakh rupees (20-25 thousand rupees per bigha).
The farmer is able to meet the demand of balanced food of the family by buying food very easily with that money. Cotton is less risky than other crops. Cotton is a moderate natural disaster tolerant crop. As cotton is a light woody plant, it does not suffer much damage due to minor natural calamities where other crops, especially vegetables, are damaged. In that case the survival of the cotton crop is more assured. Cotton is a moderate drought and salinity tolerant crop. Cotton cultivation is very profitable in adverse environment, a brief description of which is given below-
A. Cotton cultivation in drought prone areas: The Barind region of Bangladesh is considered as a drought prone region. These elevated Barind lands include Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions which are suitable for cotton cultivation. In Barind land, 84% of the total cultivable land of 5.62 lakh hectares is single crop and the crop density in the area is only 116%. Food grain production is not very profitable due to excess drought. But since cotton is drought tolerant, farmers will benefit economically by cultivating cotton in the area with supplementary irrigation even during monsoon.
B. Cotton cultivation in hilly areas: Cotton has been cultivated in hilly areas of Bangladesh since ancient times. Jhum method reduces the yield of cotton and hence the profit of the farmers is less. Currently, the Cotton Development Board has developed the technology of cultivating two rows of paddy and one row of upland variety of cotton in the intercrop system on the hillside through research in the last few years through which the farmers of the area are benefiting from higher yields of both paddy and cotton. Besides, a large quantity of tobacco is cultivated in Matiranga, Khagrachhari, Lama and Bandarban areas on the hill slopes. Initiatives have been taken to cultivate cotton in all those areas. Farmers in these areas are shifting from tobacco to cotton cultivation. Profitable cultivation of cotton in hilly areas is improving the living standards of the tribes and is playing an important role in food security.