African countries could be a highly suitable and cost-effective alternative source of raw cotton for Bangladesh’s textile sector, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said Sunday.”The demand for cotton in the local textile sector is here to stay as RMG will lead our export sector for another twenty to twenty five years,” he told the African-Asian Cotton B2B Meeting held in the capital. “In this context, our textile sector can look towards Africa as an alternative source of raw cotton due to its cost effectiveness,” he added, amid a growing consensus among the stakeholders about the country’s overdependence on Indian cotton.Bangladesh is currently the largest cotton importing country in the world. It spends more than US$ 3 billion to import cotton a year — more than half of it comes from India. Statistics showed that while China’s cotton import from India was falling, Bangladesh’s cotton import from India was actually rising.If the current trend continues, insiders said, Bangladesh might well become the largest importer of Indian cotton.The finance minister was also not quite optimistic about the prospect of local cotton as a large source of raw material for the local textile industry.”Local cotton farmers are unlikely to be able to meet the bulk of the huge demand for cotton due to land shortage,” he said. “At the same time, the rising demand for chemical and other fibre materials as a substitute for cotton is also not helping the local cotton industry.”Currently, Bangladesh grows around 180,000 bales of cotton a year, which is just 1.0 per cent of the annual demand. However, the local producers have a target to meet 10 per cent of the demand by the end of 2025. Speaking on the occasion, the local cotton traders sought better policy incentives for importing cotton given its importance in feeding the country’s export-oriented RMG sector.President of Bangladesh Cotton Association M Shahidullah said that African countries were increasingly becoming an important source of cotton for Bangladesh’s garments industry.”Nevertheless, there are ample scope for diversifying our sources and explore Africa further as a bigger source of cotton, considering the issues of cost effectiveness.”Vice President of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association Mohammad Ali Khokon and Baba Berthe of Bangladesh Cotton Association also spoke on the occasion.