Fair Trade cotton from West and Central Africa

Mamadou Ouattara of the Association of African Cotton Producers (AProCA) provided a very specific perspective on Fair Trade to the recent Brussels Briefing. He pointed out the benefits and challenges of Fair Trade schemes for West and Central African cotton producers.

AProCA was set up in 2004 to defend the interests of African producers against distortions on the world cotton market. Member countries are located in West and Central Africa. Bénin, Burkina Faso and Mali are among the biggest cotton producers in the region and the importance of cotton to national economies can not be underestimated. In Burkina Faso, it makes up 51% of national exports, and in Bénin and Chad it amounts to 38% and 36%.

While more than 99% of the cotton produced is conventional cotton, the share of fair trade or organic cotton has risen in recent years. In Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cameroon, fair trade cotton rose from 1300 tonnes of fibres in 2005 to 8000 tonnes in 2007. In comparison to the prices of conventional cotton on world markets, which lies between 145 and 175 CFA/kg, Fair Trade and organic cotton producers earn 272 CFA/kg.

Like Mr. Fall did before, Mr. Ouattara highlighted the challenges faced by West and Central African producers. The small producers are generally badly equipped, and have a low average output. Moreover, they have very low skills in soil fertility management and land management, and the co-existence of GMOs and organic seeds also causes difficulties. Above all, the certification and supervision costs prevent many small scale farmers from engaging in Fair Trade schemes. Per kilogramme of seed cotton, Fair Trade certification costs 10 CFA, or 0,036€ per kg fibre.

Links: presentation, executive summary, video interview (in French)

See more on the 16 April Briefing

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