This Friday, October 7th, 2022 is the annual World Cotton Day. This event exists since 2019. It is the “Cotton-4”, cotton producers in sub-Saharan Africa who proposed the idea to the World Trade Organization to celebrate this material so important to them. Let’s take a look at this key material in the fashion industry.
What is cotton?
Cotton is a plant material that grows in hot and humid regions where summers are long. It comes in the form of a small shrub of about 80 cm.
At the end of this one, we find the fruit of the cotton plant, seeds surrounded by a fiber resembling a bird’s nest. It is precisely this fiber that will be used to create the cotton fabric. When the fruit of the cotton tree is ripe, it opens, proof of maturity of cotton. The fibers measure between 2 and 5 meters. They are spun into cotton yarn and then woven or knitted into fabric.
Where does cotton come from?
Cotton is one of the oldest materials. Its presence is found in Mesopotamia but also in the Arabian Peninsula.
Cotton continues its progression in the Persian Gulf, in Egyptian oases and finally in Central Asia in the 3rd century.
It was only later that cotton arrived in the Arab countries and finally made itself known in Europe.
India was one of the first exporters of cotton in the world and this since antiquity, it is today the largest producer of cotton with 6.5 thousand metric tons produced in 2021.
Cotton is today the most produced material in the world despite a decrease in its production due to soil exhaustion and social-economic changes.
Cotton on African soil
Cotton, also known as the “White Gold” of the African economy, has allowed immense socio-economic progress for African countries.
Indeed, its production represents an important economic and social share, particularly for the countries of the CFA zone.
West Africa is the 5th largest exporter in the world with 15% of the world total.
Cotton is almost exclusively grown by small producers, with very few large farms.
Cotton is grown in rotation with other crops such as corn, soybeans and peanuts. This is not only good for the soil but also allows for a more efficient production of these cereals which are the staple food in most African villages.
Cotton is therefore a real gold mine for the inhabitants because it is the source of many jobs and allows 16 million Africans to live.
This crop is produced with few resources and a low-paid workforce compared to developed countries.
During the covid-19 crisis, cotton farms in Africa suffered a real impact on their crops. Indeed, in Mali, only 20% of the cotton crop was sold in June 2020. The “Cotton-4” group then called for the lifting of trade restrictive measures to facilitate exports and cotton products.
Currently, the challenges posed by cotton cultivation are complex and numerous, such as competition from synthetic fibers, or the challenges of biotechnological crops.
Nevertheless, we are seeing the emergence of African farmers’ cotton associations that are trying to expand and become involved on the international scene.
Cotton in our clothes
The South African cotton market has been boosted by the production of sustainable cotton launched by Coton SA, allowing to increase the capacity of the African cotton market.
This sustainable cotton has three main focuses: improving the quality of life of producers, reducing the ecological footprint of cotton and securing a future for members of the sector.
This sustainable cotton is found in exports to France, Switzerland and England.
This material, with its high absorbency, is highly valued by consumers, in addition to its long life, flexibility and comfort. Cotton is a good thermal insulator, so it can be worn in summer and winter. Nevertheless, cotton tends to shrink in the wash, so special attention should be paid to it when using high temperature machines.
And you, do you have any cotton articles?