Global cotton prices continued to drop in May, completing the month at 60 percent below pricing from the previous year. The 7-market average U.S. spot price fell more than 20 cents in this month, from $0.83 to $0.62. The drop in pricing has both positive and negative affects—negatively impacting cotton growers and producers but reducing pricing pressures for apparel producers, and even helping denim and underwear markets begin economic recovery. (Sourcing Journal)
The situation has gotten so bad for cotton producers in Zimbabwe that protests have been staged. During the first week of June, cotton growers in the African nation protested cotton’s low market value and the government’s pricing scheme, which they say does not cover their costs of production. (Sourcing Journal)
In spite of, or perhaps in conjunction with, falling prices, cotton production is becoming increasingly focused on sustainability and efficiency. Apparel and sourcing industry groups regularly host conferences and meetings to discuss how to make the apparel supply chain more sustainable. In March, a Textile Exchange Sustainable Apparel Workshop was hosted in New York, where industry professionals met to put sustainability into practice and discuss human rights, environmental and labor issues.
Cotton production has become significantly more sustainable in recent years. According to Cotton Incorporated, fifty percent more cotton is produced on the same amount of land today, when compared to 40 years ago.
Also, the market share of organic cotton is increasing. Organic cotton requires that the crop is produced without pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified seeds. It takes approximately three years to transition traditional cotton fields to organic. Textile Exchange predicts that the global cotton market will rise to $7.4 billion in 2012, from $6.2 billion in 2011 and $5.6 billion in 2010 (Women’s Wear Daily March 27, 2012).
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