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Cotton Campaign ends the Boycott of Uzbek Cotton.

Textile Raw materials market
This a piece of promising news for the Uzbek Nation as after a dozen years, the Cotton Campaign has finally announced the end of its pledge, signed by 331 brands and retailers, to boycott Uzbek cotton on account of forced labor. The Uzbek government had increasingly pushed for the lifting of the boycott in recent years, even eliciting the support of former political prisoners in 2019 to make the case that significant progress had been made in eliminating forced labor.

There is more work to be done, particularly when it comes to labor rights and trade unions, but the lifting of the Cotton Pledge illustrates that progress can be made and, as such, rewarded. In its press release, the Cotton Campaign urged brands interested in engaging with the Uzbek cotton sector to continue to do their own due diligence. Arguably, in the dozen years, Uzbek cotton has been subject to a boycott by many brands, the expectations of consumers (and thus the companies trying to woo them) have shifted. It may take some time and additional effort for Uzbek cotton to shake the history of forced labor and additional work to bring labor practices up to current international standards, but the door is open now.

Uzbekistan is a crucial partner for the West in Central Asia. It is the most populous country and among the fastest-growing economies in the region, and both the European Union and the United States. Cotton production in Uzbekistan is vital to the country’s national economy, and it is Uzbekistan’s main cash crop, accounting for 17% of its exports in 2006. With annual cotton production of about 1 million tons of fiber (4–5% of world production) and exports of 700,000-800,000 tons (10% of world exports), Uzbekistan is the 8th largest producer and the 11th largest exporter of cotton in the world.

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