Agroforestry / August 22, 2016

Cotton: A Worldwide Commodity

Cotton is an agricultural commodity used in the production of countless goods worldwide. From clothing and bedding to paper currencies, this cash crop is widely cultivated and used in manufacture. This article explores contemporary cotton production in African nations.

Cotton: A Worldwide Commodity

Today, the global cotton market represents approximately US$80 billion. Its major producers are China, India, and the United States, who dominate almost two-thirds of the total market supply with a combined production of more than 16 million metric tons. Even though China is the world’s largest cotton producer at almost 7 million metric tons each year, the Asian Giant is still a net importer of this commodity as well as cotton’s leading consumer. During the 21st century, Asia has become the world’s leading producer and consumer of cotton.

A highly mechanized crop in developed economies, cotton production varies substantially between world regions. Furthermore, in western countries cotton production is highly subsidized by the government. It is estimated that the United States government gives over US$3 billion every year to cotton growers, making it one of the most subsidized agricultural commodities in the nation.

Cotton Production in Africa

Even though Africa is not at the forefront of cotton production, African nations represent important cotton producers for their region as well as European markets. Concentrated mainly in the Sahel region, African cotton producers are highly exposed to drought, which affects agriculture throughout the region. Some of the main cotton producers in the West Africa region are Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad, this last country being located closer to central Africa. African nations, whose methods of cotton cultivation are not as advanced as those of developed economies, have implemented policies that grant the cotton industry protection as well as incentives. For this reason, organizations such as the Malian Company for Textile Development (Compagnie Malienne pour le Développement du Textile) and the Burkinabe Society of Textile Fibers (Société Burkinabé des Fibres Textiles) have been set in place in these countries.

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During the 2014/2015 cultivation year, production in Burkina Faso was 710,000 tons. However, Burkina Faso is expected to only produce 581,000 tons of cotton during 2015/2016. Similarly, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Mali decreased their overall production from 2014/2015 to 2015/2016 due mainly to weather conditions. Out of the five, francophone countries in question, Chad was the only one that increased its production from 142,000 tons in 2014/2015 to an expected 149,000 tons during 2015/2016. The total regional output of these five producers went from 1,876,000 tons in 2014/2015 to 1,573,000 tons in 2015/2016. An expected improvement in production conditions should increase the regional output for the upcoming harvest of 2016/2017. These five exporting nations are expected to yield a total of 1,950,000 tons of cotton in 2016/2017. Even though this amount represents an overall increase from the two previous years, Senegal is the only country not expected to raise its production from the current output of 20,000 tons.

The cotton market should be on the radar of global farmers and investors. Not only is demand for this agricultural commodity growing, but also its regions of production are subject to weather volatility and market entry opportunities are bound to arise.

(Read more about Agriculture in Africa)

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