Everyone knows that organic products are free from chemicals and pesticides. The concern is that with many artificial fertilizers, their health effects are unknown. When ingested, some additives can cause hyperactivity in children, weight gain and antibiotic resistance.
Cotton farmers, for example, are negatively impacted by the chemicals they’re forced to come into contact with. Being exposed to high levels of these pesticides all day has many adverse long-term health effects.
And organic cotton demand for has been rising steadily, mainly in the last few years. There is a sign of increasing demand for organic cotton as brands expand their use of fiber in their product lines in response to concerns over the textile industry’s impact on the environment and consumer demands for sustainable choices.
Organic farming doesn’t harm the surrounding environment, so animal habitats aren’t destroyed by chemicals and pesticides. Many ecosystems and certain animals, such as birds, are harmed by traditional farming methods, as their food sources are destroyed.
Hence regenerative farming or sustainable farming is becoming a shiny new buzzword in the sustainable fashion conversation because of rapidly changing trends. Fast fashion is moving towards slow fashion items which are designed to be sustainable, functional, durable and stylish but organic.
It’s a matter of joy that year 2019/20 saw the largest ever volume of organic fiber harvested globally – with growth set to skyrocket in 2020/21.
Total 249,153 tones of organic cotton fiber grown on 588,425 hectares of certified organic land, according to Textile Exchange’s ‘2021 Organic Cotton Market Report’.
The figure represents a 4% growth in fiber volume and is the fourth year in a row that organic cotton production has increased with an estimated 48% growth over the previous year, making it the second-largest harvest on record. This growth is largely a result of causing organic cotton prices to increase. This, in turn, suits farmers and is leading existing producers to dedicate a larger share of their certified organic land to growing cotton versus other crops. Demand is also the main driver for new producers starting up organic cotton production.
This particular high demand is making the world shift to organic cotton as it requires much less water and isn’t treated with any kind of genetically modified seeds or pesticides. According to studies, India is the largest producer of organic cotton, with approximately 51% of global supply, followed by China (19%), Kyrgyzstan (7%), Turkey (7%) and Tajikistan (5%).
The global market size of organic cotton crossed USD 37 bn. in 2018, and grew at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.2%. And yet, the entire organic cotton comprises only 1.1% of the total cotton production of the world. This is a great indicator of the scope of growth for the organic textile industry.
Organic cotton supply back to the demand scale shares the number of facilities certified to leading voluntary organic textile standards increased substantially in 2019, with facilities certified to the Organic Content Standard (OCS) growing 48 percent and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) up 35 percent. The global organic cotton fiber supply has increased 392% since the 2000-01 harvest to 25,394 metric tones during the 2004-05 crop years.
These options made bound Rui Fontoura, Textile Exchange fiber strategist, to tell, “Textile Exchange urges all brands to ‘plan for planting,’ including supporting the conversion years to ensure that organic will be available to meet their future needs.”
Therefore, developing the organic textiles value chain would be a worthwhile opportunity. However, to make optimum use of this opportunity, it needs to be backed up with market-friendly government policies and wider international trade pacts.
By 2030 the demand for organic cotton will increase 84% sharp compared to a 2019/20 baseline, according to OCA. This incredible move towards organic cotton is a step in the right direction for the fashion industry and those who are committed to supporting it.
The Demand Insights Report highlighted the challenges faced in sourcing organic cotton. Both the price and the lack of in-conversion cotton in the pipeline to meet future needs were barriers for companies to meet sourcing goals. OCA found that without proactive steps are taken by retailers and brands, there will be a failure in the opportunity to scale organic cotton and positively impact farmer communities and the environment.
Since 2016, brands and retailers are working directly with farmers to support and develop sustainable methods of farming, to ensure the connection with organic cotton. That’s why, In the season 2020/21, Farm Programme worked with over 24,000 farmers in India, due to the investment and long-term commitment of Contributor Partners.
The journey to be organic is needed more as supporting in-conversion cotton is the most sustainable solution. Companies are projecting an average 10% increase in uptake each year, through to 2025, and a 15% annual increase between 2025 and 2030, however, only 27% have incorporated in-conversion cotton into their sourcing strategy. By taking action now and investing in conversion programs, which often need up to 36 months to complete, retailers and brands can commit to meeting the future demand.
A stable market environment is acknowledged the importance of pricing and creating conditions as pricing was listed by retailers and brands as a major obstacle to sourcing organic cotton-the Demand Insights Report.
However, price fluctuations can be avoided by investing in farm programs. Farm-centric organization’s focus is to keep the commitment to deliver a premium to the farmers as this creates a fair and honest value chain for all involved.
Fashion brands and retailers have started to take steps forward in tackling these sector challenges by entering investment programs and confirming long-term commitments to farmers. This sea change will continuously encourage new Contributors to join in this collective action.
Retailers and brands can lead the change that is needed to drive the organic cotton sector forward, meeting future demands and protecting this in fashion. This is high time to act.