The History of Fairtrade Cotton
Fairtrade Cotton Production
Fairtrade cotton was launched in West Africa (Cameroon and Burkina Faso) during the 2004-05 season, and reached the shelves of fashion stores in France and Switzerland in March 2005, soon followed by the United Kingdom in November of that year.
The production of Fairtrade cotton has grown ever since, first expanding to India, Pakistan, Mali and Senegal the following season, and is now also grown in Brazil, Peru, Kyrgyzstan and Egypt. The Fairtrade cotton sector is therefore very young (barely 6 years of existence) and is only really in its initial stage of development.
The market for textile products made with Fairtrade certified cotton has been dominated by 3 countries since 2005: the UK, France and Switzerland.
Fairtrade Cotton is spreading
New markets have emerged since 2007, mainly the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland), the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, and are likely to expand significantly in the coming years. One of the most recent trends has been the increased demand for the combination Fairtrade-organic cotton, which can be explained in part by the emergence of new markets (e.g the Nordic countries) which favour this combination.
Another trend which can be observed throughout Europe is the increased interest from public institutions and national companies such as postal services or rail companies to use Fairtrade cotton as a key element of their public procurement policies, as well as hotel chains.
Fairtrade Cotton in the Future
As of today, an estimated 500,000 people in developing countries have benefited directly from Fairtrade cotton. Most existing producer groups have increased their membership each year - for example Cameroon - and there are many more applicant cotton farming organizations who wish to benefit from Fairtrade in the coming years.
While it remains a fact that world production of Fair Trade cotton remains extremely small relative to the world total, growth of Fairtrade cotton sales have still been impressive considering it was only introduced to world markets in earnest in 2005.