As 2011 comes to a close and we look forward to 2012 for its new opportunities, new challenges, and new achievements, it’s a good time to go back over some of the year’s headlines.
Also click on the image below for a visual account of 2011 (click will take you to the TE Farm Hub homepage where album is located).
For the first time, Organic Cotton tips 1 Percent of Global Production. Astounding, considering it was less than 0.1 percent five years ago! Our Farm & Fiber Report comes out every January with statistics and commentary on the previous year.
A Record High - Cotton hits $2 a pound. This dip in production and the corresponding spike in the commodity market resulted in a trading frenzy, with traders reportedly turning up in the fields with their scales to buy up cotton (some bearing gifts such as coca cola). Many growers kissed good bye to their carefully tended organic (Fairtrade or other ‘speciality’) cotton to capitalise on the great rate for conventional. This was far from convenient for organic specialists but who could blame them? The Guardian reports the effect of the price hike on retail here.
The Peruvian government gives New Expo, an organic textile company and member of Textile Exchange, an Award for Social Responsibility. This accolade recognises both the company’s export business and their contribution to the environment, health and society. Among many things New Expo provide breakfast for 75 children living in extreme poverty every day. See page 5 of Engage here.
February is Biofach Month. BioFach, the World Organic Trade Fair, welcomes over 44,500 visitors to the Exhibition Centre Nuremberg from 16-19 February 2011. The Fair provides an opportunity for visitors to explore innovative organic food, textiles, and natural cosmetics all under the one roof. The program of congress events provides a lively exchange of views, including a growing number of textile sustainability panels. Read the full review here.
On the 28th of March Textile Exchange’s new Farm Hub goes Live. If you haven’t paid a visit to our Hub yet now is the time! Go to: http://farmhub.textileexchange.org/ You will find all you ever wanted to know about organic cotton including our popular ‘learning journeys’, ‘Engage’ farm newsletter, farmer visibility tool, video, audio, and a whole lot more.
The Organic Cluster Roadmap for SE Anatolia is launched. The Roadmap, ‘phase one’ of the GAP Organic Agriculture Cluster Development Project, is the first of five main phases of the project and released in March. The Project is implemented by the GAP Regional Development Administration (GAP RDA) and supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The project aims to build sustainable development in the GAP region, through organic agriculture, including cotton. See page 4 of Engage for more details.
Textile Exchange in Collaboration, for the first time, with Organic Fashion Izmir holds a 3 day event in Izmir, Turkey. On the first day, April 14, TE runs a special seminar on Sustainable Textiles. OFI was created by the Aegean Clothing Manufacturers' Association, EGSD, to match Turkish producers with foreign buyers interested in organic. The seminar program reflects the growing interest in textile sustainability by manufacturing companies, and is attended by over 200 people.
The Cotton Industry sees the ban of Endosulfan, an Organochlorine Insecticide used heavily in cotton production. Endosulfan became a highly controversial agrichemical due to its acute toxicity, potential for bioaccumulation, and role as an endocrine disruptor. Because of its threats to human health and the environment, a global ban on the manufacture and use of endosulfan was negotiated under the Stockholm Convention in April 2011. Against a backdrop of some controversy, the ban will take effect in mid 2012.
UNCTAD Policy Brief Makes Organic Agriculture a Priority for LDCs. UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development publishes an official policy brief for the 4th UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) held in Turkey (9th to 13th May). The policy brief underlines the importance of sustainable agriculture in addressing hunger and poverty and called for a fundamental shift in national and donor policies. The brief uses the IFOAM definition of organic agriculture and emphasizes the impressive productivity improvements that can be achieved in Africa with organic agriculture. UNCTAD in conjunction with UNEP also releases a short film ‘Organic Agriculture: A Good Option for LDCs’ at the Conference, which features IFOAM World Board member Moses Muwanga from Uganda. You can access the Policy Brief, Full Report, and a Short Film here.
June 21st sees the Signing of the Dhawad Declaration. In a common declaration, drawn up in Dhawad, concerned stakeholders commit themselves to join forces to promote non-GM and organic cotton through progressing the availability of non-GM and non-hybrid seed development. More information, including a copy of the Dhawad Declaration, can be found here.
Textile Exchange gets together with Gossypium and Mantis World to produce ‘Love. Organic Cotton.’ our first fund-raising t-shirt. All proceeds from sales leading up to our annual conference go to supporting farmer participation. We are proud – and thankful – to say enough t-shirts are sold to cover almost five farmers. But the project continues, we want to raise funds to support training and workshop attendance by organic farmers at significant regional events. Please help by visiting Gossypium and purchasing yourself, family member, friend, or team mate a fabulous new year’s organic cotton tee now!
On July 6th Helmy Abouleish is Released from Detention in Cairo's Tora Prison after 100 Days. Helmy, CEO of the successful Egyptian company SEKEM which specialises in biodynamic and organic products (including cotton), was jailed during the Cairo uprising for his prominent role in Egyptian public life. On release, Helmy immediately returns to the SEKEM farm and to his workplace. In a conversation with Maximilian Boes after his return, Helmy tells the story of his time in detention and the reasons for his being taken into custody in the first place. He also talks about his plans for his future and that of SEKEM. Read the interview here. Co-incidentally, SEKEM this year was selected as one of 16 new sustainability champions by the World Economic Forum. Find out more here.
The Textile Exchange Midyear Predictions Report Forecasts a Decline in Organic Production after 5 years of exceptional growth (>500 percent since 2006). Reasons for decline revolve around India’s reduced output (India produces around 80 percent of the world’s organic cotton). Our 2011 report will be out shortly but we can say that our early predictions are looking fairly accurate, with a 20-25 percent global decline. Reassuringly, activities in India to improve the situation, including seed availability, are gaining momentum. Overall, TraceNet should benefit the industry by improving transparency, thus rewarding the many diligent, robust organic cotton producers in India. Read the full report here.
The Summer of 2011 is remembered in Texas as one of the Driest on Record. Drought in Texas, alongside other zones across the world, dealt farmers a harsh reminder of how precious water is for life on earth. Whether it is an example of the longer term impacts of climate change, irregular weather patterns, or part of a cyclic weather system, droughts hit Texan farmers hard this year. Dryland farmers (which include most of our organic cotton farmers) gave up on producing much cotton this year. Irrigated cotton is reportedly down by about 60 percent. Take a look at this clever Global Drought Monitor to see where the drought hit hardest.
Droughts, floods, and other weather evens will, as usual, play a role in yields each year. But a changing climate over a longer period of time will bring changes to the global distribution of cotton. This year, Peter Ton, an independent consultant, prepared a report for the International Trade Centre on this very subject. See: Cotton and Climate Change - Impacts and Options to Mitigate and Adapt here.
H&M Top the Charts in Textile Exchange Market Report released this Month. Textile Exchange continues to report market growth in organic cotton textiles. Global retail sales of organic cotton apparel, home, and personal care products increased 20 percent to just over $5.16 billion, an increase from $4.3 billion in 2009. The ‘Top Ten’ organic cotton-using brands and retailers globally in 2010 were (in order by rank): H&M (Sweden), C&A (Belgium), Nike, Inc. (Oregon, USA), Zara (Inditex) (Spain), adidas (Germany), Greensource (Washington, USA), Anvil Knitwear (New York, USA),Target (Minnesota, USA), Disney Consumer Products, (California, USA), and the Otto Group (Germany).
Textile Exchange takes its annual conference to beautiful Barcelona! This year we held our usual ‘Organic Cotton Track’ amongst a full suite of textile sustainability tracks. Our panels of world experts and entrepreneurs discussed and debated topics such as community investment, marketing, and value chain partnerships with a markedly maturing wisdom and confidence. We also managed to squeeze in a ‘Pre-conference cotton dialogue’ before the main event. Three roundtable discussions are held over the course of the day, focussing on non-GM seed availability, models for responsible trading, and sustaining growth. Hear what some of our topic experts had to say on the day. Catch the soundbites here.
This year we were thrilled to see significant number of leading organic cotton producers active in Barcelona. Download our beautiful conference delegates’ guide to organic cotton here .
The 17th Organic World Congress (OWC) is held in Gyeonggi Paldang, South Korea from September 26 to October 1. TE’s Managing Director La Rhea Pepper manages a back-to-back speaking tour, leaving Barcelona behind and heading south for the event.The IFOAM bi-annual attracted close to 2000 participants from 76 countries. Side events included the organic world fair and festival, and a Pre-Conference Organic Textiles workshop this year, reflecting the growing interest in organic fibres and apparel.
Chetna Organic wins Award for Climate Change Mitigation. In the ProClimate Challenge, sponsored by HIVOS and Progresso, Chetna Organic Farmers Association won an award for their work in mitigating climate change. Well done Chetna! Read more here.
BioRe hold their legendary open house in Indore, India. My colleagues Prabha Nagarajan, Hanna Denes, and I were thrilled to be spending the 24th and 25th of November with Remei clients and other friends. The annual event hosted by Patrick Hohmann, Rajeev Baruah and his wife Ritu is the classic ‘Seeing is Believing’. These folk are light-years ahead of the game: pioneers, change-makers, and industry leaders – and now I’ve seen it for myself! BioRe, and their founding partner Remei AG, turns 20 next year and is living proof of how organic cotton systems, offer social and ecological sustainability in cotton production. Follow their value chain here.
Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC) holds their annual Fall Field Day. The event provides an opportunity for all members of the supply chain to learn about the processes behind organic cotton. This year, the event offered an up-close look at the driest year in Texas' history. TOCMC is predicting organic cotton production will drop to less than half of last year's total. In a year like this, farmers selling their cotton on the conventional market face the risk of losing buyers to other markets this year and struggling to get them back in years to come. For the TOCMC, because of the commitment of brands to the organic cotton farmers, the farmers know they will have a place to sell their cotton for years to come. See an interview with members of the TOCMC on Youtube.
Peru Bans GMOs for next 10 Years... the rest of the world will be watching, not least neighbouring Latin American countries. The President of Peru, President Humala, signed the 10-year moratorium to the introduction of genetically modified (GM) seed. For a sector escalating in its use of GM seed, this law will prevent the growing of transgenic cotton in Peru and protect the country’s biodiversity. It is also expected to increase food exports in the coming years by about one billion U.S. dollars. Read more here.
On November 21st Pants to Poverty break world record! Ben Ramsden has broken a new world record with his fairtrade organic underwear brand Pants to Poverty, by managing to fit the largest number of people ever into a pair of pants! Ben encouraged over 50 commuters to strip down to their underwear at Canary Wharf in London this week, and jump inside a giant pair of underpants to help raise awareness of ethical working practices. Read more about the Make Poverty History campaign here.
The One World ‘VIP’ Award Goes to the late Wangari Maathai. The ‘Mother of Trees’ who passed away only a few weeks prior to the celebration will hold a special place in many hearts. Wangari was chosen for this award as she personifies the One World Award, especially the aspect of ‘peaceful community building’. As a tireless campaigner and activist for environment conservation, democracy, human and especially women rights, peace and justice, she has put the objectives of the One World Award into action on a global level and with the greatest of impacts. The partners of the One World Award (including International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the pioneering German organic company Rapunzel Naturkost) presented the award to Wangari Maathai’s daughter Wanjira Maathai at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi. The full press release can be read here.
North Carolina Celebrates its First Harvest of Organic Cotton. Plus there’s a short video accompanying the press release which is fun to watch. It’s got a wonderful sound track with banjo toe-tapping feel-good vibes. Watch the short video here and get those toes tapping.
Bloomberg address bonded child labor in Burkina Faso by attacking integrity of Organic Fairtrade Cotton systems. Drawing readers into the story of Clarisse a 13 year old girl, reporter Cam Simpson shows the world the tragedy of illegal child labor. Clarisse’s sobering story can be used as a call to action for the cotton industry, and society at large, but should not be an opportunity to make accusations against worthy ‘movements’ aimed at improving livelihoods. Whether Clarisse was indeed bonded to a Fairtrade organic cotton farmer has not been proven. Furthermore, whether Clarisse is one account or whether she represents many is not explained in the article. Most of us would argue that one account of illegal child labor is indeed one too many, but what we can be sure of is that it’s 100fold worse on conventional farms, where there is no training or monitoring. What we do know is, come harvest-time it’s very difficult to keep track of who’s doing what where. If we want to do something constructive with the Bloomberg report let’s go beyond certification and make business relationships even more committed, so we know they are working for all. You can read a deeper analysis of the situation in my earlier blog and please make comment here.
Whether it’s the value-addition of organic, the stewardship of the land and rivers, whether it’s the element of innovation needed for the 21st Century, or the luxurious boutique quality of the organically produced fiber that appeals, there is much to celebrate the world over. We need organic cotton from Burkina Faso to North Carolina to help us do good in the world, and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, Be the Change.