ZURICH – Total volumes of Better Cotton fell to 4,691MT for the 2020-21 season, the lowest level of output since 2016-17. However, membership continues to grow. In 2021, Better Cotton welcomed more than 400 new members, surpassing 2,400 total members across 63 countries by the end of the year. This represents a 14 per cent increase on 2020.
In 2021, 260 retailer and brand members collectively sourced 2.5 million tonnes of Better Cotton, accounting for 10 per cent of global cotton production. This represents a 47 per cent increase on 2020 sourcing volumes. A sizeable chunk of this increase reflects the closure of global markets in 2020 due to pandemic-related lockdowns.
In terms of trends, thanks to favourable growing conditions, in the 2020-21 cotton season, production of Better Cotton increased in Australia, Kazakhstan, Mozambique and Tajikistan, while the first harvest of Better Cotton took place in Egypt, with 1,000 tonnes of Better Cotton grown by 1,500 licensed farmers.
In Greece, the first harvest of Better Cotton took place and 11 licensed farmers produced 23,000 tonnes of Better Cotton. “As the programme enters its second season, we forecast growth in the number of participating farmers and volumes of Better Cotton grown,” said Better Cotton’s annual report.
Better Cotton is also working closely with Israel. The Israel Cotton Production and Marketing Board became a Strategic Partner following the benchmarking of the ICB’s Israel Cotton Production Standard with the Better Cotton Standard System.
The report also notes challenges. In Mali, an internal boycott – due to a decline in the seed cotton price and an increase in input costs – led to a decrease in cotton production. Meanwhile, there was no Better Cotton grown in Madagascar in the 2020-21 season as the only Producer Unit (a group of farmers) in the country, “did not meet the core requirements of the Better Cotton Principles & Criteria and therefore did not receive a Better Cotton licence.” The programme in Madagascar will be discontinued from the 2021-22 season.
The report notes there was a decrease in cotton production in Turkey as the government required farmers to introduce crop rotation in order to receive farming subsidies, which resulted in a decrease in the cotton-planted area.
In Brazil, the world’s largest producer of Better Cotton by some distance, production of cotton declined slightly compared to the previous season, due to knock-on impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, a fall in cotton prices and unpredictable weather patterns.