Organic Cotton Production ‘Stabilizing,’ Shows Report

Worldwide organic cotton production dropped 8% from last year, according to the most recent findings from Textile Exchange, a drop that is much less dramatic than the staggering 37% drop in 2010-11.  This year’s findings indicate that the organic cotton market is beginning to stabilize after a wild ride of extreme growth from 2006-2010 and a big drop in 2011, says the non-profit advocacy organization.

Another indication that the market is settling is that the total land area dedicated to organic cotton has remained fairly stable with only a 2.4% decrease from last year. This could, in part, be attributed to an increased effort by brands to study their supply chains and seek out the most updated and vetted sourcing data, says Textile Exhange. Of the organizations that downloaded the Farm & Fiber Report immediately after it was posted, more than 60% reported plans to increase their use of organic cotton in the coming two to three years, further supporting the stabilization theme.

While overall market numbers are not dramatic, some countries showed interesting growth and change patterns. For example, the report shows huge production increases in Tanzania (153% growth) and Nicaragua (190% growth). Overall, Africa saw 103% growth from last year. It is no surprise that India is the world’s biggest producer again this year, now five years straight. In fact, 74% of the world’s organic cotton comes from India. Half of the countries producing organic cotton saw an increase, including Turkey which ranks second.

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Civil Unrest and Drought Affect Volumes
Syria, the country reported as the second biggest producer last year, is out of the numbers mix as civil unrest meant that production estimates were not available and there is currently no fiber for export. This situation also makes future forecasting difficult because no one knows when the situation in Syria may change or improve.

Another country facing difficult issues is the United States, due to drought, As much as 90% of US-grown organic cotton comes from the state of Texas, which saw devastating drought in the last year, hurting all US cotton growers. Droughts in Latin America (Paraguay and Brazil) were also damaging to production.

“The overall numbers we’re releasing for the Farm & Fiber Report can be viewed with hope,” said Liesl Truscott, Farm Engagement Director for Textile Exchange.

“Looking ahead, we are hopeful that organic cotton production will remain fairly stable,” said Truscott. “The situation in India is still fragile – access to good quality non-GMO seed is critical and better investment models are needed. We also cannot predict whether Syria will make a recovery next year and again export fiber. In addition, the uncertainty of rainfall at the right time in the US and Latin America will play a significant role in determining growth.”