The global production of organic cotton has increased by 56 per cent to reach the highest levels seen in eight years, according to Textile Exchange’s 2019 Organic Cotton Market Report.
The report shows that production of organic cotton reached 180,971 tonnes in 2017/2018 – although this represents just 0.7 per cent of the total amount of cotton produced.
India, China, and Kyrgyzstan were the biggest contributors to this increase in organic cotton production which looks set to continue with the same three countries having the most land in-transition to organic.
The number of facilities certified to voluntary organic standards is also on the rise, with facilities certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard and Textile Exchange’s Organic Content Standard growing by 15 and 16 per cent respectively.
Cotton is grown organically in 19 countries around the world and the Organic Cotton Market Report reveals that 98 per cent of the production stems from just 7 of these: India (47 per cent), China (21 per cent), Kyrgyzstan (12 per cent), Tukey (6 per cent), Tajikistan (5 per cent), the United States (3 per cent), and Tanzania (3 per cent).
Organic cotton now makes up 0.7 per cent of total cotton production globally. In 2017/2018, the fibre was planted on a total of 356,131 hectares (ha), with an additional 44,394 ha in transition to organic. Production was carried out by a total of 182,876 farmers, the majority of whom were smallholders growing organic cotton in rotation with other crops.
An interesting trend, identified in India this reporting year, was that organic cotton farmers increased the proportion of certified land used to grow cotton (as opposed to other organic crops) from 45 to 70 per cent, which contributes in part to the 44 per cent growth seen in India’s production. Farmer access to cotton seed that has not been genetically modified (GM) remains a huge obstacle for organic farmers, particularly in countries such as China and India where GM cotton dominates the cotton landscape.
The report highlights some of the great progress being made in this area and includes an urgent call to action for added investment in non-GM seed programs, as well as for companies to develop their own organic cotton safeguarding programs.