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Week of 3.9.07

Facts and Figures: The Cotton Trade

  • Cotton accounts for about 40 percent of total world fiber production.

  • While some 80 countries from around the globe produce cotton, China (24%), the United States (20%), and India (16%) together produce over half the world's cotton.

  • The U.S. and Africa are the world's two leading exporters of raw cotton, accounting for more than half of the $12 billion market worldwide. Other top exporters include Uzbekistan, Australia, and India.

  • China is, by far, the world's largest cotton importer.

  • Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, California, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana were the top cotton-producing states in the U.S. in 2003, accounting for 80 percent of total production.

  • The top 10 percent of cotton producers receive the majority—78 percent—of U.S. cotton subsidies.
World Cotton Production
Source: USDA 
  • The U.S. cotton industry accounts for more than $25 billion in products and services annually, generating over 400,000 jobs in industry sectors from farm to textile mill.

  • U.S. farmers receive a subsidy of $230 per acre of cotton farmland, which is five times what they receive for cereal crops.

  • Despite a 2006 drought across much of the "cotton belt," U.S. cotton farmers harvested the third-highest yield average on record for that year, in part due to genetically modified crops and other improvements in technology.

  • Last year, 68 per cent of U.S. cotton was exported at prices substantially below true production costs.

  • Loopholes in subsidy rules may allow industrial-sized farms to collect payments in excess of $1 million.

  • America's cotton farmers received total subsidies amounting to over $3.3 billion in 2005.

  • The World Trade Organization declared U.S. farm subsidies illegal in 2005, claiming that they distorted global markets, failed to save small U.S. farmers, and promoted environmental damage.

  • In 2002, the American government paid two times more in farm subsidies than the entire USAID budget for sub-sahara Africa's 500 million people.

  • Oxfam estimates that U.S. "dumping" practices caused losses of almost $400 million between 2001 and 2003 for poor African cotton-producing countries.

  • In Africa, more than 20 million people depend directly on cotton crops for their livelihood.

  • A typical small-scale West African cotton producer makes less than $400 per year on his crop.


» National Agricultural Law Center: Cotton Production and Support in the United States

» National Cotton Council: "Cotton Session Undermines WTO Process, Is Unfair to U.S. Cotton Farmers"

» Oxfam: Cultivating Poverty

» United States Department of Agriculture: Cotton Briefing