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Better Cotton Initiative debuts in South America
Aug '13
Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) South American debut took place in the VICUNHA showroom in São Paulo. A separate BCI corner was installed as a platform for documentaries and presentations, in order to introduce BCI to major South American partners. BCI representative, Lilly Milligan Gilbert, was specially flown in from Geneva to Brazil for the event.

Having started only three harvests ago, the global cultivation of sustainable cotton reached a total of 670 thousand tons for the 2011/12 harvest, 3% of the world’s fiber production in the season. So far, BCI production has been restricted only to Brazil, India, Pakistan and Mali. This year BCI gained the adhesion of producers from China, Turkey and Mozambique and, until 2015, the United States and Australia will also join the group.

This should increase the total sustainable production of the fiber to 2.6 million Tons. The movement establishes cotton cultivation with less environmental impact, as well as more financial and social gains for the producer.

“Having 3% in the total production of sustainable cotton in only three years is not of little significance – it is more than the worldwide production of organics and ‘fair trade’, which are much more consolidated segments”, says BCI’s Membership Manager, Lilly Gilbert.

“From now on we will have the big producers and consumers on our side. After the first years of implementing BCI, the expansion strategy proposed for the period from 2013 to 2015 builds not only on the entry of more producers, but also on expanding industry and retailer membership, thus improving the whole chain.”

In Brazil, for example, only the textile company VICUNHA joined BCI: “The idea”, says Lilly, “is that BCI should be the ‘mainstream’ cotton, instead of operating in a niche market targeting consumers aware of sustainability issues. It is an ambitious but realistic goal”, she said, during her VICUNHA-sponsored visit to São Paulo last week in order to attract new members.

“In the next two years BCI cotton is expected to reach 2.6 Million tons produced by 1 Million licensed producers. By 2020, the goal is to reach 30% of the global cotton production, which would involve 5 million producers and potentially benefit 20 million people, taking into account the role of the families involved in this kind of agricultural activity.”

Lilly mentions the advances seen so far, saying that the goals can be achieved: “In two harvests the number of licensed producers grew from 68 thousand to 165 thousand and the area planted jumped from 225 thousand to 550 thousand hectares. In turn, the production increased from 35 thousand tons in 2010 to 670 thousand tons harvested last year.”

Brazil alone accounts for the area and volume: “Unlike the other countries, our agriculture consists of large landholdings”, says Andrea Aragon, the Brazilian coordinator of the BCI. “The implementation of the project in the country is done in partnership with the Brazilian Association of Cotton Producers (Abrapa). Brazil has until now been the driving force behind BCI’s expansion.”

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