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Better Cotton’s Farmer Participation Up 79%

Better Cotton InitiativeWhen Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) rolled out an updated version of its online traceability tool last January, it expanded its user base to include fabric mills so that some members could trace their cotton purchases from field to fabric for the first time.

That’s just one highlight noted in the non-profit’s “2014 Harvest Report,” released Monday, which also revealed that 1.2 million farmers participated in the program last year—up 79 percent from 2013—and produced two million metric tons of Better Cotton lint, an increase of 118 percent.

Plus, BCI said its reach grew to 20 countries in 2014, five more than in the previous year, and 7.6% of all cotton produced globally was Better Cotton.

“The underlying premise of our model was confirmed by our 2014 results: higher yields, reduced inputs of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, resulting in much higher income for our farmers,” said Patrick Laine, the outgoing chief executive officer who was replaced by Alan McClay in September. “BCI farmers in Pakistan, for example, achieved an average of 9 percent greater yields while using 15 percent less pesticides and 18 percent less water. Further to achieving this, they generated a staggering 46 percent increase in income.”

Pakistan also scaled up Better Cotton production in 2014 to more than double the amount of farmers involved in the program and this year, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) signed a pledge to make the fiber a mainstream commodity country-wide.

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Brazil, however, is the largest source of Better Cotton globally, accounting for more than 45 percent of the country’s national cotton crop; in 2014, 190 farmers grew 768,000 metric tons of lint.

But that’s not all. In China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of cotton, BCI farmers achieved around 11 percent higher yields than non-participants while using 16 percent less pesticides and water to report 30 percent higher profits. Indian farmers, meanwhile, used 20 percent fewer pesticides, decreased water consumption by 4 percent and upped their income by 32 percent.

And in the United States, the third-largest cotton producing country in the world, BCI implemented a pilot project with 21 growers in Texas, California, New Mexico and Arkansas in 2014—farmers that are now licensed to sell Better Cotton to participating merchants—that produced 12,000 metric tons during the year.

“Growth is good. With results like these, our greatest challenge is to grow even faster,” Laine continued, noting, “There is a long waiting list of other interested countries, so we are confident the trend will continue.”