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TEXAS – Burkina Faso has the potential to become a major hub for organic cotton, a recent meeting concluded. US non-profit Textile Exchange recently staged the first Regional Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) for West Africa in Koudougou. Attended by over 100 participants, the meeting included a large number of producers from across the region as well as representatives from governments, NGOs, ginners, traders, manufacturers, brands, and exporters.

A key focal point of the meeting was a new scoping report carried out by Change Agency for Textile Exchange. Based on key interviews with local industry stakeholders, the report looks at the potential for Burkina Faso to develop into a major African hub for organic cotton.

Sabali Meschi and Simon Cooper from Change Agency presented the key findings of the report. The report says: “African organic cotton is clearly in demand from markets and brands, but an effective demand alliance which gives reliable demand signals to enable farmers to plan their planting would improve the situation. Producers and brands still occupy separate worlds but modern integrated supply chains can bring them together. One example is the Chetna Coalition in India, which a number of interviewees cited as a useful approach for Africa to consider.

“Our overall conclusion from these interviews is that Burkina Faso and the broader region has an excellent opportunity to grow its organic cotton sector, given more collaboration and a concerted effort to bring more value-adding into the continent rather than exporting raw cotton.

“Burkina Faso is second only to Tanzania as a producer of organic cotton in Africa. This gives the country the opportunity to act as a hub for regional development, providing the raw material for the development of cotton ginning, mills and other facilities.

“Burkina Faso benefits from three sources of demand for its organic cotton – international demand from global brands, regional demand from neighbours, and local demand from Burkina Faso citizens. Many people in Burkina Faso only wear 100 per cent African apparel and new generations, and those in the diaspora, have a renewed interest in African fabrics.

“Many interviewees complimented the quality of cotton from the region, indeed one recommended taking organic cotton out of the commodity market by giving it an origin certification like champagne.

“More work may be needed in the post-harvest phase to improve the quality but the historic criticism of African cotton quality is no longer true.”

The roundtable was staged in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and USDA during the Salon International du Cotton et du Textiles (SICOT).

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