The world cotton industry is witnessing strong demand growth, advances in technology and substantial progress toward liberalized trade in cotton textiles and apparel. By many measures, the health of the cotton industry is good. Nevertheless, many challenges continue, including the need to encourage universal implementation of sustainable production systems, competition with polyester and the need to boost demand, distortions to production and trade caused by government measures in cotton and continuing difficulties with contract defaults. In addition, the ICAC faces institutional challenges in boosting membership, a shift in attitudes toward public sector involvement in commodity matters, privatization of national cotton industry organizations and pressures on government budgets.Cotton is grown in more than 100 countries on about 2.5% of the world’s arable land, making it one of the most significant crops in terms of land use after food grains and soybeans. Cotton is also a heavily traded agricultural commodity, with over 150 countries involved in exports or imports of cotton.
More than 100 million family units are engaged directly in cotton production. When family labor, hired-on farm labor and workers in ancillary services such as transportation, ginning, baling and storage are considered, total involvement in the cotton sector reaches an estimated 350 million people. It also provides employment to additional millions in allied industries such as agricultural inputs, machinery and equipment, cottonseed crushing and textile manufacturing. Cotton cultivation contributes to food security and improved life expectancy in rural areas of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Cotton played an important role in industrial development starting in the 17th century and continues to play an important role today in the developing world as a major source of revenue. The value of world cotton production is estimated at approximately $40 billion in 2007/08. The economic importance of cotton justifies the involvement of governments in an international cotton organization dedicated to improving the health of the industry.