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DUBLIN – Primark has expanded its cotton programme which trains farmers in methods aimed at minimising the environmental impact of cotton growing. The business plans to train more than 160,000 cotton farmers across three of its key sourcing countries – China, Pakistan and India – by the end of 2022. Each farmer in the programme is trained in “appropriate farming techniques for their land,” with a focus on issues such as seed selection, sowing, soil, water, pesticide and pest management. The programme is now expanding to China for the first time while thousands more farmers are being enrolled in Pakistan and India.

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China is one of the largest cotton-growing countries in the world and a key sourcing location for Primark. Primark is working with CottonConnect, alongside their implementation partner the Heping Cotton Farmers’ Cooperative, to introduce over 80,000 independent cotton farmers in China to the programme. Additional male and female farmers will also be enrolled onto Primark’s existing programmes in India and Pakistan.

Cotton is the main natural fibre used to make many Primark products, including pyjamas, t-shirts and jeans.

Since 2013, Primark has been working with consultants CottonConnect and local partners to train female farmers in India to use less water and chemicals. Said a statement from Primark: “By starting at the very beginning of the supply chain, the cotton can be directly traced from cotton field through manufacture to delivery to Primark’s stores. This gives the retailer and its customers complete confidence in the source of the sustainable cotton used, its environmentally friendly credentials, and the positive impact on farmers’ livelihoods.”

Primark claims that, in Pakistan, where the programme launched last year, those who have completed their first year of training have seen a yield increase of 11.2 per cent and a 12.9 per cent reduction in input costs, resulting in an average profit increase of 26.8 per cent.

Katharine Stewart, ethical trade and environmental sustainability director at Primark, said: “As a leading international retailer, we know that many people rely on us for great quality cotton products at affordable prices. Cotton is one of our most important fibres and, like other retailers, we rely on farmers working in rural communities around the world. Improving the long-term sustainability of how that cotton is grown has therefore been a key priority for some time. What’s particularly exciting for us is that we can be confident our cotton has been grown in an environmentally-friendly way because we’ve been able to track it all the way from farm to store.”

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