Bolstered by continued strong manufacturer demand even during the recessionary times, organic cotton continued its steady growth in 2009-2010, according to a the fifth annual Organic Farm and Fiber report by Textile Exchange  (“the Exchange”), the leading global organic cotton and sustainable textiles non-profit organization formerly known as Organic Exchange.
According to the Exchange’s Organic Cotton Farm and Fiber Report, production of organic cotton rose 15 percent from 209,950 metric tons (MT) in 2008-09 to 241,276 MT (just over 1.1 million bales) grown on 461,000 hectares (1.14 million acres) in 2009-2010. Organic cotton now represents 1.1 percent of global cotton production. Global organic cotton has witness a veritable explosion (539 percent increase) in production in the last four years since 2005-06, when only 37,000 MT was produced in 22 countries. The organization anticipates similar strong growth in this year.
With the addition of Tajikistan, organic cotton was grown by approximately 274,000 farmers in 23 countries in 2009-2010 versus 22 countries in 2008-09. India remained the top producing nation for 2009-10 for the third straight year, growing over 80 percent of the organic cotton produced globally and increasing its production of the fiber by 37 percent over 2009-2010. Syria moves from third into second place, and Turkey fell from second to third place. The remaining countries in descending order are: China, United States, Tanzania, Uganda, Peru, Egypt, Mali, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Israel, Benin, Paraguay, Greece, Tajikistan, Senegal, Nicaragua, South Africa, Brazil, and Zambia.
According to LaRhea Pepper, Textile Exchange senior director, “Manufacturers, retailers and consumers, and most importantly, farmers, all signaled their continued interest in supporting organic cotton production and the risks that came with it despite the recession.” “In addition,” she continued, “the strong growth is an indication of the work Textile Exchange is doing with brands and retailers that have strong strategic plans and engagement all the way to the farm.”
Liesl Truscott, Textile Exchange farm engagement director and the report’s lead author, notes that the organic sector cannot rest on its laurels despite the rapid growth in organic cotton production. “As organic cotton grows in volume, we must continue to strengthen integrity in production, certification, and processing,” she stated. All 2008-2009 stocks of organic cotton have been purchased as has most of this current year’s crop. As such, “brands interested in nailing down their supply need to build organic cotton supply security into their planning strategies now, preferably by implementing forward contracts,” stressed Truscott. According to the organization’s Organic Cotton Market Report 2010, global retail sales of organic cotton and home textile products topped 4.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2009. Data from the 2010 market will be available this spring.
Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers or genetically-modified seeds. Representatives from Textile Exchange will be speaking and exhibiting at the Outdoor Retailer show  in Salt Lake City, Jan. 21, 2010.