Of all organic fibers, organic cotton is one of the most popular. Here are some facts about the growing organic cotton industry.
What is "organic cotton?"
Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.
How much organic cotton is grown globally?
According to the fourth annual Organic Exchange Farm and Fiber Report 2009, organic cotton production grew an impressive 20 percent over 2007/08 to 175,113 metric tons (802,599 bales) grown on 625,000 acres (253,000 hectares). Organic cotton now represents 0.76 percent of global cotton production.
Organic cotton was grown in 22 countries worldwide with the Top Ten producer countries led by India and including (in order of rank) Turkey, Syria, Tanzania, China, United States, Uganda, Peru, Egypt and Burkina Faso. Approximately 220,000 farmers grew the fiber.
What is the value of the global organic cotton market?
According to the Organic Cotton Market Report 2009 released by Organic Exchange in May 2010, global sales of organic cotton apparel and home textile products reached an estimated $4.3 billion in 2009. This reflects a 35 percent increase from the $3.2 billion market recorded in 2008. Companies reported significant growth of their organic cotton programs, and increased adoption of standards addressing organic product traceability and sustainable textile processing.
In fact, companies are increasingly becoming certified to traceability standards such as the Organic Exchange (OE) Blended or OE 100 standard tracing the organic fiber from the field to finished product. Many manufacturers also became certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) which addresses textile’s processing stages and includes strong labor provisions.
How much organic cotton is grown in the U.S.?
U.S. growers of organic cotton increased plantings of organic cotton acreage by 26 percent in 2009 over that planted the previous year, according to preliminary data collected by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in a survey funded by Cotton Incorporated.
Analysis of available data collected by an OTA survey of U.S. organic cotton producers and preliminary data from the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC) put planted area at 10,731 acres in 2009, up from an estimated 8,539 acres in 2008. The 2009 plantings are the highest since 2001, when 11,586 acres were planted by U.S. cotton growers.
Harvested acreage figures for 2009 are not yet available. However, estimates show that this could be as much as 9,555 acres, up from 7,289 acres harvested in 2008.
Harvested organic cotton area in 2008 yielded 7,026 bales, of which 6,466 bales were upland cotton and 560 bales were pima cotton. This yield was significantly less than the 14,025 bales of organic cotton harvested from 8,510 acres in 2007. These yield differences reflected the extremely difficult weather conditions, including wind, hail and drought, in 2008 in contrast to excellent growing conditions in 2007.
Other survey findings revealed that the average price per pound farmers received for organic cotton in 2008 decreased from the previous year and ranged from 52 cents to $1.35 for organic upland cotton in 2008, compared to $1 to $1.50 in 2007. Organic pima cotton prices ranged from $1.05 to $3 in 2007, compared to $1.75 in 2008.
When asked what their greatest barriers are to planting more cotton in 2010, growers cited finding a market for their cotton, finding a market that will pay value-added costs of organic products, production challenges such as weeds and insects, weed control, and labor costs. Growers also cited competition from international organic cotton producers as well as the cost of transition to organic.
How is the apparel industry involved with organic cotton?
Apparel companies are developing programs that either use 100 percent organically grown cotton, or blend small percentages of organic cotton with conventional cotton in their products. There are a number of companies driving the expanded use of domestic and international organic cotton. For a current list of OTA members with fiber products, visit The Organic Pages Online™ at http://www.ota.com/.
What kinds of products are made using organic cotton?
As a result of consumer interest, organic cotton fiber is used in everything from personal care items (sanitary products, make-up removal pads, cotton puffs and ear swabs), to home furnishings (towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, bedding), children's products (toys, diapers), clothes of all kinds and styles (whether for lounging, sports or the workplace), and even stationery and note cards.
In addition, organic cottonseed is used for animal feed, and organic cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food products, including cookies and chips.
How fast is the organic fiber market growing?
In 2009, organic fiber sales in the United States grew by 10.4 percent over the previous year, to reach $521 million, according to the Organic Trade Association's 2010 Organic Industry Survey. The future looks promising, with organic fiber products appearing in more mainstream outlets, led by large U.S. textile retailers.
© Organic Trade Association, June 2010