The fabric of everyday life
Cotton really is part of our daily life (just check your clothes tag!) – and it’s also the livelihood of 100 million rural households in 75 countries across the globe. But price-wars and a life below the poverty line means that in many countries, cotton farmers may as well be giving the shirt off their backs.
Unravelling the issues
It’s not surprising that cotton is the most important crop in the global textile industry.
A product in such high demand can often attract a raft of issues and with cotton; it’s all about the global price tag.
The problem goes like this: producer countries that have stronger, more developed economies often subsidise their cotton industry. This creates what is known as ‘artificially low’ prices, that means it is below ‘cost’. The first to lose out are the developing countries’ local economies; the would-be export income- which could otherwise be invested in health or education – disappears. For the farmer, this means they have to hand over their crop for less than it costs to produce it. And there is nothing fair about a system that perpetuates this kind of hardship.
The solution is this. Enable farmers to fight poverty themselves through Fairtrade certification. First off, Fairtrade provides a Minimum Price paid to producers covering sustainable production costs; this then acts as a safety net when market prices drop. Beyond this, producers are eligible for Fairtrade Premium – an extra payment which the producers and their community decide how best to invest, be that for farming, health or education.
Following the cotton trail of success
Changing the way cotton is produced has made leaps and bounds in ensuring the sector can be sustainable, profitable and kind to the environment. According to the latest (2019) Fairtrade Cotton Report, here’s how things are looking for Fairtrade cotton:
Cotton and the environment
If we’re talking cotton we must also talk about the environment. Historically, cotton farming is linked to significant environmental damage. Extensive usage of agrochemicals and the excessive use of water is not a sustainable practice. So how can we make life better for farmers and the environment alike? The answer is to combine the Fairtrade Standards with organic production.
Fairtrade works with farmers to stop or reduce the usage of agrochemicals and supports them to adapt to a changing climate. For example, Fairtrade cotton fields in West Africa and India are now mostly rain-fed, thus reducing the region’s water footprint when compared with production in other countries.
A large percentage of Fairtrade cotton is also organic certified, this encourages and empowers cotton farmers to protect the natural environment as an integral part of their farm management while ensuring long term viability of its production.
Where to buy Fairtrade cotton
Whether you wanting ethical fashion, natural fibre undies or beautifully soft sheets, there are plenty of Fairtrade cotton options to choose from.