Global Agriculture

World Cotton Day: Celebrating the role of cotton in global development while calling for developing the crop more sustainably

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08 October 2022, Rome: Innovation is essential to grow cotton sustainably, a crop that is key to global development, QU Dongyu Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said today on the occasion of   World Cotton Day.

At a global event hosted by FAO to mark World Cotton Day, Qu underscored the need to transform the sector to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

An estimated 100 million family farmers across 80 countries directly depend on the cotton industry, and women play a key role in the value chain. It supports the economies of many low-income and emerging countries. World production of cotton is valued at about  $50 billion, while global trade stands at $20 billion.  

In recent years, however, the sector has faced numerous challenges. Climate change, pests and diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unfolding global economic slowdown have hampered the cotton industry. Market price volatility has hit the sector hard. It also has to compete with synthetic fibres.

“We need to do things differently, through innovative approaches to enhance the contribution of cotton to human well-being,” the FAO Director-General said.

The Minister for Trade and Industry of the Republic of Chad, Ali Djadda Kampard delivered the keynote speech.

This was followed by a video message from the Brazilian Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply, Marcos Montes Cordeiro.

There were video statements by the heads of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Senior officials from and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) also spoke at the event.

The discussions focused on how innovation and technology can drive solutions to the challenges facing the sector, while fostering sustainability in the cotton value chain and creating new market opportunities for cotton producers, in particular smallholders.

Cotton’s role in socio-economic development

“A single tonne of cotton provides, on average, year-round employment for five people – often in some of the poorest regions,” the FAO Director-General said. 

“It is a means of livelihood that sustains millions of smallholders and their communities, securing their food security and nutritional requirements,” he added.

He highlighted the problems faced by farmers such as limited access to technologies, insufficient support services, lack of investments and depleted natural resources that hamper the growth of this water intensive crop. He called on decision makers to craft inclusive policies that would better develop the crop and promote decent jobs in the cotton sector.

World Cotton Day was launched at the initiative of the Cotton Four (C-4) countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali. On August 2021, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 7 October as annual World Cotton Day.

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