Cotton is grown on around 35 million hectares worldwide. The main cotton producing countries are China, India, Pakistan, and the US. Around 100 million rural households are engaged in cotton production in more than 75 countries across the globe, making it a $51.4 billion business in 2013-14. 

Ninety percent of the world’s cotton farmers live in developing countries, which is where Fairtrade focuses its efforts. Most Fairtrade small producer organizations are based in West Africa – namely Mali, Senegal, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. India has become another important production country, growing the most Fairtrade certified cotton globally. Products made from Fairtrade cotton include clothing, bags, and homeware items such as towels.

What Fairtrade Means for Cotton Producers

There are currently Fairtrade certified cotton producers, located in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Peru, Kyrgyzstan and India.

In the last five years cotton sold under Fairtrade terms has generated a substantial improvement in the lives of cotton growing families. With Fairtrade, cotton farmers have the security that they will receive a fairer and more stable price that aims to cover their costs of sustainable production. They also receive a Fairtrade Premium in addition to the selling price that they can invest in community projects, such as schools, roads or health care facilities.

In cotton, Fairtrade exclusively certifies small producer organizations. By supporting democratic organizations of small farmers, Fairtrade encourages a stronger, more unified voice for farmers in trade relations. Read more

General Cotton Facts

  • Cotton seeds are very robust. If the wind blows them onto the sea, they might travel thousands of miles without losing their ability to sprout once they arrive on a new shore.
  • Seed cotton fibres are first separated from the seed during ginning to form lint, and then spun into yarn. The yarn is used to manufacture textile goods.
  • Organic cotton only accounts for about 1 percent of the world's cotton output, while genetically modified cotton accounts for about 81 percent cotton planted globally. Fairtrade does not certify any cotton seeds that are known to be genetically modified.
  • Cotton is used for a lot more than textiles: for example, as padding in furniture and automobiles, and in plastics, lacquers, fodder, cottonseed oil and cordage.

Where to Buy

Products produced with Fairtrade cotton are available around the world. Look for the FAIRTRADE Mark or contact your local Fairtrade organization by checking out Fairtrade Near You.

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