Caught on Cotton? Vital Signs

Environment

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  • CAUGHT ON COTTON? Volatile cotton sector struggles to balance costs and benefits Vital Signs
  • TEXT HERE Although synthetic materials are making inroads, cotton remains by far the most important natural fiber for textiles. In 2013/14, 26.3 million tons of cotton were produced worldwide. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next.
  • TEXT HERE Growing cotton provides livelihoods for an estimated 100 million households in as many as 85 countries. Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html
  • TEXT HEREChina and India together account for 52% of global cotton output- up from just 13% in 1949/50. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. Pp. 5-6. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. ICAC, Cotton: World Statistics Bulletin of the International Cotton Advisory Committee. P. 3. (Washington, DC: 2012).
  • TEXT HERE Cotton makes up 5-10% of the GDP of some countries in west and central Africa. In Mali, 40% of the country's rural population depends on the crop for their livelihoods. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. Pp. 4, 5. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. Fairtrade Foundation, The Great Cotton Stitch-Up (London: November 2010), p. 11.
  • Output growth has been driven by rising yields which have more than tripled from 250kg per hectare in 1940/50 to 804kg today. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. ICAC, Cotton: World Statistics Bulletin of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (Washington, DC: 2012). ICAC, Cotton This Month, 2 June 2014; ICAC, Cotton This Month, 3 January 2014.
  • TEXT HERE But adverse global market conditions and reliance on large doses of water, fertilizer, and pesticides impose considerable social and environmental costs.
  • TEXT HERE Cotton prices are declining as a result of substitution by synthetic fibers, stocks that have risen to more than 80% of annual consumption, and subsidies that allow producers to dump their output below cost. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. Share in 1940s from Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html; 1960 from U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Cotton Market,” 28 February 2011, at www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/Agricultural_Products/Cotton/Market.
  • TEXT HERE Cultivating cotton takes about 3% of all water use worldwide, relying on both rainwater and irrigation systems. Producing a pair of jeans takes an estimated 10,850 liters of water, and a t-shirt takes 2,720 liters. Arjen Y. Hoekstra and Ashok K. Chapagain, “Water Footprints of Nations: Water Use by People as a Function of their Consumption Pattern,” Water Resources Management, vol. 21, no. 1 (2007), pp. 35– 48. Ashok K. Chapagain et al., “The Water Footprint of Cotton Consumption: An Assessment of the Impact of Worldwide Consumption of Cotton Products on the Water Resources in the Cotton Producing Countries,” Ecological Economics, vol. 60 (2006), pp. 186–203.
  • TEXT HERECotton is grown on30-35 million hectares, or 2-3% of the world's total arable land. ICAC, Cotton: World Statistics Bulletin of the International Cotton Advisory Committee. P 11. (Washington, DC: 2012).
  • TEXT HERE $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are used on cotton each year, and growing cotton accounts for 16% of global insecticide use and 7% of global herbicide use. Pesticide Action Network North America, “Cotton,” at www.panna.org/resources/cotton. “The Risks of Cotton Farming,” at www.organiccotton.org/oc/Cotton-general/Impact-of-cotton/Risk- of-cotton-farming.php.
  • TEXT HERE Repercussions include pest resistance and adverse health effects on farmers. Pesticides can also contaminate groundwater and surface water. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Pesticides: Health and Safety. Human Health Issues,” 17 October 2014, at www.epa.gov/pesticides /health/human.htm.
  • TEXT HEREThere are options for more socially andenvironmentally responsible cotton. Share in 1940s from Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html; 1960 from U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Cotton Market,” 28 February 2011, at www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/Agricultural_Products/Cotton/Market.
  • TEXT HERE Fair trade cotton farmers receive a minimum price covering the average costs of sustainable production, as well as a premium. Standards also often include environmental criteria, restricting the use of agrochemicals and pesticides. Share in 1940s from Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html; 1960 from U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Cotton Market,” 28 February 2011, at www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/Agricultural_Products/Cotton/Market.
  • TEXT HERE Organic production uses organic substances and integrated pest management instead of fertilizers and pesticides. It relies on soil fertility management and entails harvest and post-harvest quality management measures. “Organic Cotton,” at www.organiccotton.org/oc/Organic-cotton/Organic-cotton.php.
  • TEXT HERE One of a number of fair trade labels, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), seeks to reduce the environmental impact of cotton production, improve the livelihoods of farmers, and promote decent work. In 2013, just 3.7% of all cotton was produced in accordance with BCI principles, but the goal for 2020 is to extend this to 30% and to involve 5 million farmers. “The Advantages of Fairtrade Cotton,” undated, at www.organiccotton.org/oc/Fairtrade- cotton/Benefits-of-fairtrade-cotton.php. Number of countries from Better Cotton Initiative, “Key Facts,” at bettercotton.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/BCI-Key-Facts- 20141.pdf.
  • TEXT HERESuch initiatives offer important benefits to cotton farmers. But for the moment, at least, they account for only a relatively small share of the industry.
  • Full analysis, sources, and data available at: http://bit.ly/1As1N2Q
  • about us WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE VITAL SIGNS ONLINE Through research and outreach that inspire action, the Worldwatch Institute works to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world that meets human needs. Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis to understand critical global trends.
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  • CAUGHT ON COTTON? Volatile cotton sector struggles to balance costs and benefits Vital Signs
  • TEXT HERE Although synthetic materials are making inroads, cotton remains by far the most important natural fiber for textiles. In 2013/14, 26.3 million tons of cotton were produced worldwide. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next.
  • TEXT HERE Growing cotton provides livelihoods for an estimated 100 million households in as many as 85 countries. Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html
  • TEXT HEREChina and India together account for 52% of global cotton output- up from just 13% in 1949/50. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. Pp. 5-6. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. ICAC, Cotton: World Statistics Bulletin of the International Cotton Advisory Committee. P. 3. (Washington, DC: 2012).
  • TEXT HERE Cotton makes up 5-10% of the GDP of some countries in west and central Africa. In Mali, 40% of the country's rural population depends on the crop for their livelihoods. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. Pp. 4, 5. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. Fairtrade Foundation, The Great Cotton Stitch-Up (London: November 2010), p. 11.
  • Output growth has been driven by rising yields which have more than tripled from 250kg per hectare in 1940/50 to 804kg today. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. ICAC, Cotton: World Statistics Bulletin of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (Washington, DC: 2012). ICAC, Cotton This Month, 2 June 2014; ICAC, Cotton This Month, 3 January 2014.
  • TEXT HERE But adverse global market conditions and reliance on large doses of water, fertilizer, and pesticides impose considerable social and environmental costs.
  • TEXT HERE Cotton prices are declining as a result of substitution by synthetic fibers, stocks that have risen to more than 80% of annual consumption, and subsidies that allow producers to dump their output below cost. ICAC, Cotton This Month, 5 January 2015. The ICAC reporting period for cotton statistics stretches from August of one year to July of the next. Share in 1940s from Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html; 1960 from U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Cotton Market,” 28 February 2011, at www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/Agricultural_Products/Cotton/Market.
  • TEXT HERE Cultivating cotton takes about 3% of all water use worldwide, relying on both rainwater and irrigation systems. Producing a pair of jeans takes an estimated 10,850 liters of water, and a t-shirt takes 2,720 liters. Arjen Y. Hoekstra and Ashok K. Chapagain, “Water Footprints of Nations: Water Use by People as a Function of their Consumption Pattern,” Water Resources Management, vol. 21, no. 1 (2007), pp. 35– 48. Ashok K. Chapagain et al., “The Water Footprint of Cotton Consumption: An Assessment of the Impact of Worldwide Consumption of Cotton Products on the Water Resources in the Cotton Producing Countries,” Ecological Economics, vol. 60 (2006), pp. 186–203.
  • TEXT HERECotton is grown on30-35 million hectares, or 2-3% of the world's total arable land. ICAC, Cotton: World Statistics Bulletin of the International Cotton Advisory Committee. P 11. (Washington, DC: 2012).
  • TEXT HERE $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are used on cotton each year, and growing cotton accounts for 16% of global insecticide use and 7% of global herbicide use. Pesticide Action Network North America, “Cotton,” at www.panna.org/resources/cotton. “The Risks of Cotton Farming,” at www.organiccotton.org/oc/Cotton-general/Impact-of-cotton/Risk- of-cotton-farming.php.
  • TEXT HERE Repercussions include pest resistance and adverse health effects on farmers. Pesticides can also contaminate groundwater and surface water. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Pesticides: Health and Safety. Human Health Issues,” 17 October 2014, at www.epa.gov/pesticides /health/human.htm.
  • TEXT HEREThere are options for more socially andenvironmentally responsible cotton. Share in 1940s from Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html; 1960 from U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Cotton Market,” 28 February 2011, at www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/Agricultural_Products/Cotton/Market.
  • TEXT HERE Fair trade cotton farmers receive a minimum price covering the average costs of sustainable production, as well as a premium. Standards also often include environmental criteria, restricting the use of agrochemicals and pesticides. Share in 1940s from Fairtrade International, “Cotton,” at www.fairtrade.net/cotton.html; 1960 from U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “Cotton Market,” 28 February 2011, at www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/Agricultural_Products/Cotton/Market.
  • TEXT HERE Organic production uses organic substances and integrated pest management instead of fertilizers and pesticides. It relies on soil fertility management and entails harvest and post-harvest quality management measures. “Organic Cotton,” at www.organiccotton.org/oc/Organic-cotton/Organic-cotton.php.
  • TEXT HERE One of a number of fair trade labels, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), seeks to reduce the environmental impact of cotton production, improve the livelihoods of farmers, and promote decent work. In 2013, just 3.7% of all cotton was produced in accordance with BCI principles, but the goal for 2020 is to extend this to 30% and to involve 5 million farmers. “The Advantages of Fairtrade Cotton,” undated, at www.organiccotton.org/oc/Fairtrade- cotton/Benefits-of-fairtrade-cotton.php. Number of countries from Better Cotton Initiative, “Key Facts,” at bettercotton.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/BCI-Key-Facts- 20141.pdf.
  • TEXT HERESuch initiatives offer important benefits to cotton farmers. But for the moment, at least, they account for only a relatively small share of the industry.
  • Full analysis, sources, and data available at: http://bit.ly/1As1N2Q
  • about us WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE VITAL SIGNS ONLINE Through research and outreach that inspire action, the Worldwatch Institute works to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world that meets human needs. Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis to understand critical global trends.
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