Category Archives: general

My vision of the organic cotton market

I hope that it once will come true that organic cotton becomes the accustomed standard.

Whoever wants to have it the other way round has to ask for it in the shops: “Could I have a really dirty produced shirt, please?”

Some facts on cotton production worldwide

In 2008 44 billion US$ were spent on pesticides used in agricultural production. US$ 3 billion were spent in cotton. On less than 3% of the arable land (=cotton production area)  worldwide 6.8% of the herbicides and 16% of the insecticides used were applied in cotton only.

Production of genetically modified cotton has increased tremendously, covered in the season 2008/09 48% of all cotton production area, amounted to 54% of global cotton production and 52% of cotton trade.

Organic Exchange predicts a 21% growth (estimation) in organic cotton production in 2009.

Share not convey knowledge!

Never before used within this community are the moderation techniques of fish bowl, open space and world cafe. ‘I hear a lot of people talking about the way this conference has been set up. Instead of expert panels, the interactive sessions bring people together on another level. It’s not so much about conveying your knowledge, but about coming up with new ideas when bringing different actors within the supply chain together at a table. I have to say that I like it very much!’ said Prabha Nagarajan of Organic Exchange in India.

Congrats to the organizers of WCOC for thinking out the box with this special conference format!

WCOC09: Creating space for dialogue and exchange

The World Congress on Organic Cotton kicked off this morning with its opening session. Three speakers provided food for thoughts and framed the issues that this congress will address in the coming days.

Melchior Lengsfeld form Helvetas recalled the work his organisation is doing on organic cotton and fair trade. Helvetas is committed already for several years in promoting sustainable management of natural resources.  It now supports about 50000 farmers and families in producing and trading organic cotton. In his views, it is clear that nobody can promote and manage organic and fair trade cotton all alone; it’s only possible to do that by building true partnerships and working together along the value chain to make it sustainable. Farmers, processors, traders, retailers have different interests, hence it’s important to create spaces to discuss openly about the challenges ahead and understand each others. This congress aims at providing such opportunity for dialogue and exchange.

Peter Tschannen from Remei AG offered the perspective of a manufacture that recently switched all production to organic textile.  For Peter ‘organic’ has been a choice of life for many years now, and in the 1990s together with Patrick Hohmann started a project with cotton producers in India. Their vision is to improve the leaving conditions of small farmers, integrate them in the value chain and make consumers aware of the issues of rural development and agriculture in developing countries. What started almost as an hobby is now a leading organization in the sector, described as a successful business model.

Today, organic cotton constitute almost 55% of all cotton consumption. Organic clothing has becoming mainstreamed,  but a lot of challenges are still very much present.

To start with, farmers need training and education; besides, they are very vulnerable and affected by the current economic crisis. Besides, prices have to be decent and still in line with the market. All this requires patience and the creation of partnerships among producers, manufacturers and retailers all willing to work in a long term perspective and not keen on “quick money.” Further, we need to broad the perspective and not think only about cotton, but also about ecology and the all supply and production chain.

In this perspective, the WCOC 2009 provides a great opportunity to make the different stakeholders aware of the needs and enormous possibilities that are opening up in the sector; it’s the ideal platform to “share views and opinions and learn from each others.”

Lastly, David Bannell from Organic Exchange elaborated on the issues of broadening the perspective and moving the discourse from organic cotton to sustainable textile. Brands have power and decisions on all aspects of value change; they don’t see difference between cotton and other fibers, they are just interested in the product. Therefore, it’s crucial to talk now about sustainable textile, and to clearly define what we mean with it. Further, he recalled the importance of working together along the all value chain, advocating for more collaboration and less competition

WCOC09: Facilitating the creation of partnerships on organic cotton

Tobias Meier from Helvetas highlights aims and expectations for the World Congress on Organic Cotton. The event is meant to bring together the different actors involved at the different level of cotton value chain. He feels that there’s a need for the sector to move further, and many actors wants this move. Helvetas is keen to facilitating this process and provide a platform for partnerships creation and knowledge exchange.

Daniel Valenghi, pioniere nel bio

Nella trasmissione ‘Lo sciamano in bicicletta’ (radio svizzera di lingua italiana) Daniel Valenghi, attuale direttore di programma di Helvetas in Vietnam, racconta i primi passi del programma “cotone bio” di Helvetas, prima in Mali e poi nel Burkina Faso. Ascolta l’intervista a questo link.

Get ready to talk!

ausland_fullan smallI’m excited to see things picking up at this ‘Day zero’ of the Congress! People are arriving here and there, starting to re-connect and to meet new people. I hope they also discover a lot of opportunities to discuss issues of common concern and to get a better feel for their different perspectives.

I also hope those who could not make it to Interlaken but have an interest in Organic Cotton will get a small taste of the ideas and dialogues that are being exchanged here. Our team of volunteer social reporters will try to not only give occasional summaries in this blog, but also to capture participants’ feelings, reactions, inspirations on video.  So, sit back, check in every once in a while and enjoy 🙂