Organic Cotton

Cotton dominates global fibre production with an annual production of 18 million tonnes. It is the most important fibre used in large-scale textile production. With an increasing awareness of the amount of chemical usage in cotton production and the resulting ecological damage, there is concern about conventional cotton production, and a move to either organic cotton production or to production of other fibre crops that require fewer chemicals, such as hemp or kenaf.

The only cotton products worth considering are those from organic cotton. The chemical load of conventional cotton production destroys the environment and causes health problems. OF all organic fibres, organic cotton is one of the most popular.

Organic cotton production has low environmental impact and aims to build and maintain soil fertility and build a biologically diverse agricultural system. Third party certification verifies that organic producers comply with strict criteria.

Organic cotton production represents only 0.03 percent of the global cotton production. In 2000/2001 approximately 5,950 metric tons of organic cotton were produced in 11 countries. Turkey and the USA are the leading producers of organic cotton, followed by India, Peru, Uganda, Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania and Israel.

Organic cotton products are usually expensive which reflects the lack of economies of scale which exist in the conventional cotton production sector, as well as extra costs involved at each step in the process. The cost of the raw product is a small cost in the overall garment or product manufacture. It is the small costs at every step of the process that increases the cost overall. High retail prices are unacceptable to most consumers –especially when visible benefits do not exist. As several companies in Europe have found the key to success is to establish a link from the farmers to consumers, and so control the costs at each step.

Like all things organic, organic cotton has been a 'niche' product up till now. But it seems it is moving into mainstream with large clothing companies such as Nike looking to blend small quantities of organic into their lines and expanding high street, large main-order and supermarket interest around Europe. This will increase organic cotton production and so lead to better economies of scale.