Thursday 15 November 2012

Checking The Market For Organic Cotton

There's worrying news from the organic cotton sector, with word arriving of a nearly 40% drop in production in the last year.

The latest report from sustainability thinktank Textile Exchange shows 2011 was a rollercoaster ride for organic cotton. Production was down 37%, particularly in India which is the heaviest producer of the fabric. This drop in available product came at the same time as some of the heaviest users of organic cotton, particularly H&M, C&A and Nike, had all indicated that they intended to use more of it in their clothing.

The reasons for the sharp drop in production are interweaved into each other, a snarled web of circumstance. Premiums for organic cotton have been squeezed over the last couple of years, and farmers have been given annual instead of long-term contracts--all of which have led to the growers moving away from cotton and towards crops that could actually earn them a profit.

In short, the manufacturers that claim they want to use more organic cotton are not giving the incentives to the people who actually grow the stuff that they need. The report calls this a "supply and demand disconnect". I call it the obvious byproduct of both ends squeezing the middle too hard.

It's not all bad news, though. The report also outlines the way in which conventional cotton farming is improving in environmental, social and sustainable ways, and the growth in markets outside India. West Africa and Central Asia are all areas that could see significant growth in organic cotton production in the years ahead.

The report makes for fascinating, if dense reading. It's available for free download from Textile Exchange.

The 2011 Organic Cotton Market Report from Textile Exchange. 

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