Revised Standard brings new opportunities for Fairtrade cotton farmers

Santan Koutou coop, Mali

24 October 2011


Fairtrade International is introducing a revised Fairtrade Standard for Cotton, including new Fairtrade Minimum Prices, effective as of 15 October 2011.

Fairtrade seed cotton sales began with a pilot project in 2005 in West Africa. Today more than 40 producer organizations worldwide (mainly in West Africa and India) produce Fairtrade certified cotton. In 2010, shoppers bought 2.5 million items made out of Fairtrade cotton (mostly clothing) – a modest increase of 6% more than the previous year. Currently the most popular Fairtrade cotton garments are T-shirts, primarily sold in Europe. Work clothes made of Fairtrade cotton are also worn by employees of some public companies, for instance by national post employees in France. Fairtrade cotton makes up less than one percent of global cotton sales, and with increasing industry demand for sustainable cotton there is a huge potential for cotton farmers’ Fairtrade sales to grow.

Every white puff of cotton that eventually becomes a textile must navigate a long and complex supply chain. Raw cotton from farmers is sold to a company who gins it to separate the cotton lint from the seeds, the lint is spun into yarn, which is then dyed, woven, and finally cut and sewn into a finished product. The revised Standard intends to make using Fairtrade cotton easier for processors throughout the supply chain. It also clarifies the conditions under which secondary products made from processed cotton can be sold as Fairtrade, such as cotton balls sold at drug stores for personal hygiene, or cotton pads used for bandages in hospitals. Fairtrade International will next launch a project to define a reference price for cotton lint (the first step of cotton processing).

The revised Fairtrade Minimum Prices maintain or increase farmers’ income safety net. They consider the costs in each country and also reflect the length of the cotton itself. This could help to build sales for producers selling Fairtrade short staple cotton which can be used to make jeans and trousers.

Read about the new Cotton Standard here.

Read about Fairtrade’s work to improve conditions for textile workers throughout the supply chain for Fairtrade cotton here.
Learn more about the problems facing cotton farmers and how you can get involved throught the Fairtrade Foundation’s Great Cotton Stitch-Up campaign here.

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