Interview with Alison Ward

Alison Ward
Alison Ward

Organic production will need to expand five-fold by 2020
The world over cotton prices are falling. The demand for cotton is expected to grow, especially that for organic cotton. Being the largest producer, supplier and consumer of cotton, China plays an important role in the global cotton industry. Chinese farmers are switching over to other crops because of the prevailing market prices. This may have an adverse effect on the global cotton industry, as per the findings of CottonConnect, a company serving retailers and brands and cotton farmers through the creation of sustainable supply chains. Alison Ward, CEO of CottonConnect discusses these issues with Fibre2Fashion.

How do you help in creating sustainable supply chains for brands as well as farmers? How do you function?

We are a social enterprise, pioneering a transparent and sustainable cotton supply chain – all the way from retailers to farmers and building a sustainable future for the cotton industry. We believe in a market-driven approach that provides opportunities for retailers and brands as well as farmers to simultaneously expand economic opportunity, reduce poverty and protect the environment. More specifically, we connect retailers to cotton farmers through: 1. Assisting brands to develop and build sustainable cotton strategies and map their supply chains. 2. Building capacity and connecting the whole value chain: CottonConnect carries out farmer training (sustainable farming practice), connects the fabric makers or spinners to farm projects that are growing cotton, and supports the procurement of cotton by suppliers. 3. Monitoring impacts and helping brands and retailers in retail messaging and goal related messaging.

What are the common complaints that you get to hear from cotton farmers across the globe?

The most common are (in no particular order) are low cotton price combined with high input cost; the water scarcity challenge (which we reported late in 2014); soil degradation; difficulty in accessing the market and lack of market information; and the fact that there is no premium price for sustainable cotton.

Why do you think cotton farming is becoming less appealing to Chinese farmers? What other options do they find attractive now?

The drop in cotton price primarily makes cotton farming less appealing – they will grow other cash crops instead, depending on the country and, in the case of China, region.

What is the reason for the fall in cotton prices internationally?

There are multiple factors, but the main ones are purely market related – the price of other fibres, cotton availability and demand.

Can organic or sustainable cotton help cotton farmers in China to fetch bigger margins?

Yes. There are several market opportunities in sustainable and organic cotton. There is a global increase in the demand for organic cotton, and if the projections are correct, organic production will need to expand five-fold to meet projected demands by 2020.
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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