Interview with Alison Ward

Alison Ward
Alison Ward

How can brands contribute towards eliminating the problem of declining cotton production in China?

This can be done in a number of ways: 1.Support for sustainable farming practice: better soil, water and pesticide management; 2.Support for farmer finance and literacy: help farmer to tackle real and practical challenges; 3.Encourage rural entrepreneurship in cotton communities: support next generation of entrepreneurs in the cotton sector.

Which brands are you working with at present?

More than 20 pioneering brands – including John Lewis, C&A, Primark, Burberry, and Marks & Spencer.

Given that there are an increasing number of alternatives to cotton fibre available for the textiles industry, how important is it to ensure security of cotton supply?

As a natural and renewable fibre, cotton can convert to a fibre without intermediate processing steps. This makes cotton more cost-effective and environment-friendly when compared to other alternative fibres. Meanwhile, in many countries, cotton is one of the most important fibre producing plants, and thus provides a traditional and important livelihood for farmers in developing countries.

Ensuring that China has a resilient cotton supply chain is in the interest of the global textiles industry? Do you agree?

Yes. China is extremely important to the global cotton industry. As the world’s largest producer, importer and consumer of cotton, it holds around 58 per cent of the world’s total stockpile of the raw material.

What exactly is the market opportunity for brands in the Chinese cotton industry?

At a strategic level: 1.More competitive cotton prices in China; 2.High quality cotton with string downstream infrastructure; 3.Greater sustainability becomes a licence to operate. At farm level: 1.Demonstrate leadership and support for farmer finance and literacy; 2.Support for effective water management; 3.Encourage rural entrepreneurship in cotton communities.

Organic cotton will see greater demand in future. Are major cotton-producing countries geared up for this? How does CottonConnect contribute in helping farmers to prefer organic over traditional cotton?

As demand for organic cotton grows, production would need to grow five-fold in order to meet projected demand in 2020 (Source: Textile Exchange or Organic Cotton Accelerator). We are working with 23,000 farmers in India to demonstrate the business case for producing organic cotton.

What can be done to limit the impact of climate change or uncertainty on cotton yield?

Sustainable farming practices such as focusing on soil, water and pesticide management, and generally improving biodiversity. It’s also pertinent to increase cotton cultivation’s resilience to climate change.

What are the challenges facing production of organic cotton?

1.Access to good seed; 2.Knowledge and training; 3.Access to other inputs – bio-pesticides, etc; 4.Market demand and premium price; 5.Time to restore soil quality.
Published on: 04/03/2015

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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