Extra-Long Staple (ELS) cotton, commonly hailed as the gold standard in textile manufacturing, holds a coveted position in the world of high-quality fabrics. This premium cotton, known for its fibre length that  may exceed 45 mm, distinguishing it from shorter staple varieties that generally measure up to 25 mm. The unique characteristics of ELS cotton, such as its incredible softness, strength, and durability, make it highly sought after in the production of luxury textiles.

Primarily harvested from the lush fields of the Nile Delta in Egypt, as well as in other regions like Pakistan, India, Brazil, and Peru, ELS cotton thrives under specific climatic conditions. The warm temperatures and rich soil in these areas contribute to the growth of cotton fibres that are not only long but also uniform, resulting in stronger and finer yarns. The meticulous process of turning these fibres into yarn involves a method known as combed spinning. This technique enhances the fabric’s quality by aligning the fibres parallelly, removing shorter strands, and reducing irregularities in the yarn.

The transformation from fibre to fabric involves retaining the natural sheen and enhancing the softness, elasticity, and smoothness of the final product. ELS cotton does not require intense finishing processes, which helps preserve these innate qualities. Fabrics such as batiste, taffeta, voile, and percale showcase the luxurious feel and elegant appearance that ELS cotton offers.

In today’s market, Egyptian cotton is synonymous with unparalleled quality and is a preferred choice for branded clothing and luxury home textiles. Beyond its use in high-fashion, ELS cotton is also integral to producing occupational garments that provide not only comfort but also durability and functionality. These include features like high wear resistance, excellent moisture-wicking properties, and the ability to withstand repeated high-temperature washings.

Given its prestigious status, ELS cotton continues to be a testament to quality in the textile industry, underlining the blend of traditional cultivation and advanced manufacturing techniques that make it a staple in luxury and professional wear.


The Current Landscape of Extra-Long Staple Cotton in India

The cultivation of Extra-Long Staple (ELS) cotton in India spans approximately 200,000 hectares, predominantly under the DCH-32 variety in regions like Dharwad and Haveri in Karnataka, and Coimbatore, Erode, and Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, along with the Ratlam area in Madhya Pradesh. Additionally, the MCU-5 (Super fine) variety thrives in the irrigated zones of Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh, and Navarangapur in Odisha. Other interspecific hybrids such as TCH-213, SIMA HB-3, and Sara-2 are also cultivated in certain parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Despite the stronghold in traditional cotton varieties, the production of ELS cotton has been waning, juxtaposed against a surging demand from the textile industry. The industry’s requirements are stark, with the current demand for ELS cotton at about 900,000 bales significantly outstripping the available supply of around 400,000 bales. Projections suggest a need for about 2 million bales by 2025 to meet the rising consumption rates, which have accelerated notably compared to the last decade.

India, historically a leader in producing fine and superfine yarns, faces growing competition from countries like China and Pakistan, which have turned to importing cotton from the USA and Egypt to meet their needs. This scenario underscores the imperative for India to not only boost its ELS cotton production but also to enhance the quality to maintain competitiveness on the global stage and to ensure fair remuneration for its farmers.

Strategic Initiatives and Outlook

The textile sector’s reliance on imported cotton due to the domestic shortfall has underscored the urgency for strategic interventions. There is a critical need to improve both the quantity and quality of domestically produced ELS cotton through focused, mission-mode strategies. The GoI has taken up initiatives specifically to boost ELS cotton production. These initiatives will make fine and superfine count cotton yarns more accessible and affordable to handloom weavers while ensuring that the farming community benefits from better productivity and higher earnings.



Although India has seen record-breaking cotton production figures with over 37 million bales in recent years, the ELS segment remains underdeveloped, producing only about 200,000 bales against a much higher demand. Achieving self-sufficiency in ELS cotton by 2025 is not just a necessity for meeting domestic demands but also a significant opportunity to enhance the livelihoods of the agricultural and handloom sectors. This proactive approach would reinforce India’s esteemed position in the global fine yarn market and sustain its economic growth trajectory.


Source: SC-FA-AMani48.pdf (cicr.org.in)