Europe, Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia
Growing Season: 2011-12
Countries: Egypt, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey
General Staple Lengths: Short, Medium, Long & Extra Long
No. of Producer Groups: 13
No. of Farmers: 1,273
No. of Women Farmers: 261
Organic Cotton Production Area: 12,773 ha
Seed cotton production: 44,441 mt
Fiber (lint) production: 16,464 mt
Bales (US) of Cotton Lint: 75,570
European, Middle East, North African and Central Asian countries producing organic cotton in 2009-10 were: Egypt, Greece, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Turkey.
Approximately 70 percent of the total area planted to cotton is located in the Delta. The remainder is found in Middle and Upper Egypt (USDA 2010). Production and productivity levels are high in Egypt. This performance originates in the fact that cotton is grown under irrigation in Egypt and grown on the fertile plains of the Nile delta. The Egyptian organic cotton industry is closely connected to the Egyptian biodynamic agricultural movement led by Dr. Abouleish of Sekem (the Egyptian biodynamic food, pharmaceutical and textile company). This ‘modern’ biodynamic agricultural movement started in 1977 on desert-land near Belbeis. In 2007, this had grown to include an estimated 460 biodynamic organic farms were estimated (growing food, cotton and other crops), covering 14.165 ha. Egyptian organic cotton farmers tend to grow independently yet feed their cotton into the SEKEM value chain.
Greece is the largest (if not the only) cotton producer in Europe, with some 80,000 farmers growing the crop. Cotton is grown in small pockets throughout the entire country. Greece imports only a small amount of cotton, but its exports are significant, making Greece the fourth largest cotton exporter in the world (USDA Economic and Statistics System).
The Greek cotton industry has shown a small interest in organic cotton. The large denim manufacturer, Accas Textile Group, is currently the only company producing (and processing)organic cotton in Greece; with producers located in Thessalia an area in Central Greece.
Israel is a small producer with about 12,000 hectares under cotton. Organic cotton is a small business. The Israeli Cotton Board reported that there are 6-7 growers producing about 150 metric tonnes of organic ELS (extra long staple) lint on about 150 hectares. Israeli organic cotton is certified by IFOAM.
In Kyrgyzstan, cotton has been grown for a long time. The production of cotton accounts for over 40 percent of the agricultural value added, with agriculture still being the main sector of the Kyrgyz economy. The organic movement in Kyrgyzstan is aiming at continuous growth over the next years. The BioCotton Project (BCP) facilitates the growth of organic and Fairtrade production and trade in and from Kyrgyzstan. The Bio Cotton Project is a collaborative initiative of local organizations Agricultural Commodity Service Cooperative and Bio Service Public Foundation.
Cotton is planted in the north, east, and central parts of Syria. Syria has been producing organic cotton since 2006. Production is in the Aleppo area. This is currently the result of one organic project; an interesting one to watch not least because of its size and production quota. Due to the 'clean' status of the land, production was quickly increased in a short period of time. All organic cotton production is certified by Control Union certifications & SGS. Syria has rapidly become one of the biggest organic cotton producers and exporters in the world.
Tajikistan’s main trading partners for (conventional) cotton are Russia, Iran, Turkey and Latvia. However, exports have increased with Tajikistan exporting cotton fiber to 18 different countries (State Committee for Statistics). In Tajikistan, Helvetas implements the Organic Value Chain Development (OVCD) project – growing organic cotton amongst other crops. The OVCD project has a long term perspective to improve the Tajik farming sector system (particularly in cotton), allowing farmers to increase their incomes and improve livelihoods in a sustainable way through alternative value chains. The OVCD project is funded by ICCO (Dutch Interchurch Organization for Development Co-operation) and Helvetas.
Turkey is the sixth largest producer of cotton in the world, and the fifth largest consumer. Cotton has been grown in Turkey for centuries and it is recognised as producing some of the finest quality in the world. Organic cotton is mostly produced in the west of Turkey (around Izmir), and in the south east. The textile industry is well-established here and is home to some of the biggest and longest-running organic textile manufacturers in the world. Turkey remains GMO-free and has a burgeoning domestic organic market.
Hear Aydin Unsal, owner of the Turkish textile company Egedeniz talk about his experiences in manufacturing organic textiles.
Baris Kocagoz, Chairman of the National Cotton Council of Turkey and the Vice Chairman of the Izmir Commodity Exchange talks about his involvement in organic cotton production.