IMPRESSIONS from a Cross-section

Mr. Terry Townsend
Mr. Terry Townsend
Executive Director
International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC)

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The ICAC is the intergovernmental commodity body representing cotton and cotton textiles.


How do you see the prospects of global cotton industry over the next five years? What steps are being taken by various organizations to improve cotton production and livelihood of cotton farmers?

The world cotton production is growing slowly from the current level of about 25 million tons to about 28 million tons by the end of this decade. Cotton is produced commercially in about 80 countries with a wide variety of production systems. There are five major types of cotton available in the global market and they are extra-fine, fine, medium, coarse and padding/waste cotton.

Extra-fine includes the longest, smoothest and strongest cotton from Egypt, Israel, Peru, the US, etc. It accounts for about 3 percent of world cotton market. Fine cotton is produced in regions including California, West Africa, East Africa, Central Asia and Australia. Coarse cottons come from Texas in the US, Pakistan, South America, Africa and other regions. It is used to produce denim and other heavy fabrics. Waste/padding accounts for about 5 percent of world cotton use and it is used in upholstery and quilted fabrics.

The main challenge faced by the cotton industry is from polyester. The prices of polyester remain lower than cotton prices this season which puts cotton at a competitive disadvantage. Polyester accounts for over half of world apparel fibre use and cotton’s share is now about 31 percent.

Cotton production depends on improvements in technology to lower costs and raise yields. There are many efforts currently being carried out at the national and international levels to improve cotton production practices and improve the livelihood of cotton producers. All the cotton producing countries are moving to reduce water use, reduce pesticide applications, eliminate fertilizer runoff, and to improve cotton production practices in many ways.  Cotton accounts for about 6 percent of world pesticide use, down from 11 percent in the 1980s and it accounts for about 3 percent of world agricultural water use.

Some of the examples of programs to improve yields, reduce contamination, and lower costs are Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which aims to reduce the amount of water and chemicals used to grow cotton as well as improve social and economic benefits for cotton farmers, small and large, worldwide; and Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA), a project initiative launched and managed by Aid by Trade Foundation which aims at promoting African cotton producers.     

Published on: 26/08/2013

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

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