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Sourcing Journal Special Report: The Organic Cotton Market

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Still relatively small compared to the conventional cotton market, organic cotton production and use has stabilized in the 2011-2012 season, according to data from the non-profit Textile Exchange in its Farm and Fiber Report.

Organic cotton production is down 8 percent from the previous season, but significantly less than the 37 percent decline for 2010-2011.  Increased production, however, was reported in half the countries growing organic cotton.

The stabilizing effect is seen now after the substantial growth between 2006 and 2010, and after the major decline of 2011.

Organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  A cotton field must be pesticide free for three years to be certified as organic.

Organic cotton is environmentally-friendly and poses no health hazards to animals, plants, water supplies and human beings, as does conventional cotton (See the Sourcing Journal Online Report on Conventional Cotton).

Organic cotton also requires far less water than the conventional variety.

In 2011, the last year for which reliable figures are available, the organic cotton market worldwide was valued at $6.2 billion.  The 2012 market was estimated to hit $7.4 billion, although no reliable figures are yet available.

The conventional cotton market, by contrast, topped $300 billion in 2010.

More than 90 percent of US organic cotton is grown in Texas.  Although a severe drought hit the state in 2011 and caused a 45 percent decline in production, the US retained its position as the world’s fifth largest producer of organic cotton for the third consecutive year.

Organic cotton production in other countries — as percentage of the world’s total output and production in metric tons, are ranked as follows:

[1] India 103,003.52 74.20%

[2] Turkey 15,802.00 11.38%

[3] China 8,105.53 5.84%

[4] Tanzania 6,890.90 4.96%

[5] USA 1,580.00 1.14%

[6] Mali 860.00 0.62%

[7] Peru 478.50 0.34%

[8] Uganda 455.70 0.33%

[9] Egypt 420.00 0.30%

[10] Burkina Faso 370.00 0.27%

[11] Benin 328.00 0.24%

[12] Kyrgyzstan 156.00 0.11%

[13] Nicaragua 122.00 0.09%

[14] Paraguay 100.00 0.07%

[15] Israel 70.00 0.05%

[16] Brazil 37.79 0.03%

[17] Senegal 17.35 0.01%

[18] Tajikistan 16.00 0.01%

Total metric tons produced: 138,813.30

Note:

No data from Syria (production continuing, but no export due to civil unrest)

No data from Pakistan (presumed to have ceased production)

Although apparel and textiles made of organic cotton cost more than similar items made with conventional cotton, the market for eco-friendly organic cotton goods is expected to grow in the coming years as more consumers become aware of organic cotton benefits.

Those benefits include the following:

Organic farming methods helps restore land “exhausted” by overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Organic cotton is not harmful to the environment, to the farmers who grow it, and to the consumers who wear or use organic cotton products.

Organic cotton is thicker and softer than the conventional variety.

For value conscious consumers, a fast-growing category, organic cotton products last longer than the same item made with conventional cotton. And as consumer demand increases, more production may be expected, and that could conceivably result in lower costs.

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