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Mali and Burkina Faso Drive Record West Africa Cotton Exports

With Africa becoming more important in the apparel and textile supply chain, cotton exports from West Africa for the 2018-19 crop year are forecast to exceed last year’s record, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in its latest “Cotton: World Markets and Trade” report.

Driving export shipments has been record production, USDA said. Mali and Burkina Faso are the largest producers and forecast to have record crops based on expanded area. West Africa, which accounts for more than 75 percent of Africa’s cotton exports, includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

Nearly all of West African cotton is exported, USDA noted, as mills are sparse within the region, “signifying the pivotal role that foreign demand plays for West African producers and merchants.” The top destinations are South and Southeast Asia, where use of the raw materials to make textiles has grown.

Bangladesh, the world’s largest cotton importer, has recently chosen to import greater amounts from West Africa instead of cotton originating in Central Asia. USDA’s forecast for Central Asia production is lower for the current crop year, and Uzbekistan, the largest exporter in that region, is using more cotton domestically to support a growing textile industry.

“Record exports in the midst of record global use in 2018-19 will underscore the importance of cotton as a vital cash crop for farmers and a prominent source of foreign currency for West Africa countries,” USDA said.

Meanwhile, countries in Eastern Africa, such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, are leading the way for a push in apparel exporting. U.S. apparel imports from Sub-Saharan countries, primarily participants of the African Growth & Opportunity Act trade preference program, increased nearly 18 percent, to $659.71 million year-to-date through July, compared to the same period in 2017, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).