In Conversion Transitional Cotton

In-Conversion/Transitional Cotton At-a-Glance

In-Conversion/Transitional Cotton

Brands wishing to incorporate organic cotton into their supply chains may find there isn’t enough to meet their needsDemand for organic cotton has increased dramatically in recent yearto the point that, without a plan to convert more conventional acreage to organic acreagebrands may not be able to ensure a future supply.  

Brands wanting to secure future supplies of organic cotton need to send clear demand signals to farmers so that farmers can make the switch to in-conversion or transitional cotton and feel confident that there will be a market for it. 

Establishing an organic management system requires an interim period, known in different countries as either the “in-conversion” or “transitional” period (hereafter “in-conversion). This varies in time based on the organic standard being applied but is up to 36 months. During that time, farmers implement all the practices required to achieve organic certification (including not using inputs and practices prohibited in organic farming) and are audited annually by certification bodies as per international organic agriculture standards. In-conversion cotton is the output of the farms during this conversion period.  

Through the Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) Textile Exchange is working with the global organic cotton community to expand the production of organic cotton and facilitate the journey to get there. Click here to join the OCRT community. 

Next Steps

    Through the OCRT, Textile Exchange has several initiatives underway: 

  1. Providing a webinar as part of the OCRT e-Learning series: Part 1 – How to Incorporate In-conversion Cotton into your Preferred Materials Strategy.” (March 2, 3-4 pm GMT | 10-11am EDT). Learn more and register here
  2. Surveying the industry for demand forecasting.Textile Exchange will carry out a brief stakeholder survey to enable the industry to plan for expansion most efficiently and accurately and to better understand brands’ five-year forecasted amounts of fiber, qualities, and sourcing regions. Insights will be anonymized and reported back to the industry alongside recommendations. If you are interested in taking part in this important research, please contact OCRT@TextileExchange.org. 

Important Information

In-Conversion to Organic Cotton: The Basics   

This brief document provides background information on what in-conversion cotton is – including discussion of standards, fair pricing, and claims that may be made. Download here.

The Organic Content Standard (OCS) 

The Organic Content Standard (OCS) is an international voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of certified organic input and chain of custody. The goal of the OCS is to increase organic agriculture production. 

Announcement: Temporary OCS Exemption for In-Conversion Cotton 

In January 2021 Textile Exchange released guidance that permits material which is in-conversion to be verified under the OCS, including from OCS-recognized organic standards – such as the U.S. National Organic Program – that do not recognize in-conversion material. However, public facing claims for in-conversion products may not reference the OCS at this time.  

Approved OCS Certification Bodies 

Certification to Textile Exchange standards is performed by independent, third-party certification bodies (CBs). The searchable list shows the CBs that are currently licensed to conduct certification to Textile Exchange standards, including the OCS. 

Examples of General Marketing Language 

The following are links to brands that are successfully incorporating in-conversion cotton into their products, introducing the public to the concept of and promising them an organic future.  

FAQs

The availability and price of any commodity is driven by supply and demand so, to answer this question, we need to examine recent market trends.   

In 2020, the demand for organic cotton from brands and retailers increased significantly, with companies of all sizes making it a major component of their fiber and material portfolios. More and more companies are setting targets and commitments to increase their use of organic cotton, encouraged by growing evidence of its environmental benefits and by the millennial generation’s interest in sustainability and buying power in the marketplace. Some of these companies were already sourcing organic cotton and have decided to increase their procurement, while others are completely new to sourcing the fiber.   

A positive result of this heightened demand for organic cotton is companies increasing interest in sourcing “in-conversion” cotton to support farmers through the transition phase and help to expand the organic cotton market. However, such programs require investment and commitment – and up to 36 months for farmers to make the conversion. It will take even more time for this production to reach the market.  

Another demand-side trend we are noticing is that brands and retailers are increasingly keen to source from specific geographies such as India, Turkey, and the United States, increasing competition in these regions, though other geographies such as Africa and Latin America are not yet seeing the same level of interest.  

The primary supply-side factor contributing to the shortage of organic cotton currently being experienced are the reports of forced labor in Xinjiang, China, that caused some countries to ban imports of cotton from this region (read Textile Exchange’s official statement on the reports of forced labor here). China has been the second largest producer of organic cotton for years, growing 17 percent of the fiber in 2018/19 harvest year. As a result, companies that were sourcing from China are turning to other sourcing destinations, particularly IndiaKyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and the U.S.  

Another reason for the supply shortage is due to the detection of fraud in India in 2020. For further details, Textile Exchange’s statement. 

If you wish to secure a reliable supply of organic cotton, here are our suggestions:  

  1. Source directly from farmers/farm groups to secure supply and signal your demand. Visit our Organic Cotton Producer Directory to connect directly with producers. 
  2. Make a forward commitment to farmers/farm groups, or with supplier who work closely with them. Clear demand signals and fair prices will encourage farmers to plant more organic cotton. Be sure to order well in advance of planting time 
  3. Consider other sourcing geographies and models to diversify your supply base. India is the most popular sourcing location but consider other regions as well. See the Organic Cotton Market Report and Textile Exchange and Kering’s A World Beyond Certification: A best practices guide for organic cotton trading models for information on sourcing regions, pricing, fiber qualities, and more. 
  4. Buy in-conversion cotton to support farmers/farm groups through the conversion phase, secure your supply, and help to build future supply of organic cotton. Textile Exchange has posted background information about in-conversion cotton and announced the Organic Content Standard’s January 2021 policy around in-conversion materials, and together with Kering will soon release a report on in-conversion cotton. 
  5. Help Textile Exchange enable the industry to plan for expansion the most efficiently by participating in our surveys requesting forecasted demand for fiber quantities, qualities, and sourcing regions. Insights are anonymized and reported back to the industry alongside recommendations.  
  6. Ensure that the farmers are certified to a standard  to provide verification from field to finished product to industry and consumers alike. 
  7. Keep up to date on global production trends and forecasts via Textile Exchange’s annual Organic Cotton Market Report. 
  8. Join our Organic Cotton Round Table to hear and discuss sourcing and other issues with the rest of the industry. Join here. 

Contact Us

For more information, please contact: 

OCRT@TextileExchange.org for in-conversion and organic cotton queries. 

Assurance@TextileExchange.org for standard and assurance/claims queries. 

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