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Get the facts about 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, expand biologically diverse agriculture, and prohibit the use of synthetic toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, as well as genetically engineered seed. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers meet strict federal regulations addressing methods and materials allowed in organic production.  

Much of the demand for organic cotton currently comes from manufacturers and brands with corporate environmental and social responsibility goals driving them to seek to be responsible stewards. So, too, they are acting in response to consumers increasingly seeking out sustainable, chemical-free fiber and finished apparel and home products.


HOW MUCH ORGANIC COTTON IS GROWN GLOBALLY?

In 2015/2016, approximately 107,980 metric tons (495,948 bales) of organic cotton were grown by 219,947 farmers on 747,647 acres (302,562 hectares) of land in 18 countries. These included (in order by rank): India (55.7%), China (13.7%), Kyrgyzstan (7.4%), Turkey (7.0%), Tajikistan (6.1%), United States (4.2%), Tanzania (3.0%), Egypt (0.9%), Burkina Faso (0.4%), Benin (0.4%), Pakistan (0.3%), Peru (0.3%), Uganda (0.3%), and Mali (0.1%), as well as Brazil, Israel, Thailand and Senegal. [1] Organic cotton production represented approximately 0.5% of global cotton production in 2015/2016.[2]


WHO ARE THE LEADING PLAYERS IN THE ORGANIC COTTON MARKET?

The top 10 companies by volume of organic cotton in 2016 are (in descending order by rank): C&A, H&M, Tchibo, Nike, Inditex, Lindex, Boll & Branch, Woolworths, Williams-Sonoma, and Stanley & Stella. The Top Ten companies by increased use that year are: Boll & Branch, Hemtex, Outerknown, Mini Rodini, greenfibres, Fjällräven International, Patagonia, Cotonea, Felissimo, and Ethicus.[3]

Companies are increasingly becoming certified to traceability standards such as the Textile Exchange Organic Content Standard (OCS) which verifies that the cotton in a final product is certified organic. There were 3661 companies certified to the OCS in 2016.[4]


HOW MUCH ORGANIC COTTON IS GROWN IN THE UNITED STATES?

U.S. organic cotton production continues to increase, encouraged by consumer and corporate demand, price premiums, and federal and private standards that provide clear production and labeling requirements for organic cotton and organic cotton products.

In 2016, 20,681 acres (8,369 hectares) were planted with organic cotton, yielding 4,524 metric tons (approximately 20,800 bales), or slightly higher than one bale/acre. This represented a 15 percent increase in bales from 2015. The Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, based in the West Texas High Plains, grew 85% percent of all the organic cotton in the U.S. in 2016,[5] and harvested more organic cotton acres than ever before. Organic cotton – mostly Pima – is also grown in New Mexico and minor amounts in California and North Carolina.[6]


WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THE U.S. ORGANIC COTTON MARKET?

Organic fiber sales in the U.S. shattered another record in 2016, hitting $1.4 billion and posting a robust 9.2 percent increase from 2015, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2017 Organic Industry Survey.
The organic fiber and textiles category continues to rank as the largest non-food organic category in the U.S. market. Organic fiber sales now account for almost 40 percent of the total $3.9 billion in organic non-food sales in 2016. Increasing consumer awareness and the growing knowledge that what we put ON your body is an important as what we put IN it is driving growth in the organic textiles and fiber market.

The OTA survey showed that organic sales in the U.S. totaled around $47 billion in 2016 -- a record $43 billion in organic food sales and a record $3.9 billion in sales of organic non-food products -- organic textiles, household products, personal care products, supplements, pet food and flowers.[7]


WHAT ABOUT PROCESSING ORGANIC COTTON INTO FINISHED TEXTILES?

Thousands of facilities have become certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).[8] GOTS is a stringent voluntary global standard for the entire postharvest processing (spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing and manufacturing) of apparel and home textiles made with organic fiber. The standard prohibits the use of toxic inputs during the processing stages and includes strong labor provisions, including a prohibition on child labor. In 2016, there were 4,642 facilities in 63 countries worldwide certified to GOTS, including more than fifty companies in the U.S.[9] The U.S. ranks 11th in terms of the number of GOTS-certified facilities.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a policy memorandum addressing labeling of textile products containing certified organic fibers including cotton, linen, and wool. According to the memo, products containing organically grown fibers that have been processed according to GOTS may now be marketed as organic.In the U.S., total organic product sales reached $43.3 billion in 2015, an increase of 11 percent from the previous year’s record level.[10]

For information on how to label apparel and home textiles containing organic fiber in the U.S., download our fact sheet:

What are organic fiber products and how can you label them?


RESOURCES

Cotton and the Environment         Organic Cotton Fact Sheet             Textile Exchange Quick Guide to Organic Cotton


[1] Textile Exchange, Organic Cotton Market Report 2017. http://textileexchange.org/downloads/2017-organic-cotton-market-report/ 

[2] Textile Exchange, Organic Cotton Market Report 2017. http://textileexchange.org/downloads/2017-organic-cotton-market-report/

[3] Textile Exchange, Organic Cotton Market Report 2017. http://textileexchange.org/downloads/2017-organic-cotton-market-report/

[4] Textile Exchange, Correspondence with Ashley Gill, Textile Exchange, October 5, 2017.

[5] U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Organic Cotton Market Summary, September 2016. https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/cnaocms.pdf and e-mail from Kelly Pepper, Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, to Sandra Marquardt, November 21, 2016.

[6] Organic Trade Association, Organic Cotton Fact Sheet, October 2017, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, Organic Integrity Database. August 2017. https://organic.ams.usda.gov/integrity/

[7] Organic Trade Association, Organic Industry Survey. 2017. https://ota.com/news/press-releases/19681

[8] Global Organic Textile Standard, Global Organic Textile Standard Version 4.0. 2014. www.global-standard.org

[9]Global Organic Textile Standard, “Number of GOTS Certified Facilities Increases 21% to 4,642 in 2016.” May 2, 2017. http://www.global-standard.org/information-centre/press-releases.html

[10] US Department of Agriculture, Labeling of Textiles That Contain Organic Ingredients, May 20, 2011. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/OrganicTextilePolicyM...

 

 

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