Filed under: Cotton

Food Crops vs. Cotton

by on Mar 9th, 2012

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“A report published by The Guardian says the high demand for cotton may actually be a threat for future food supply and security and is contributing factor to food shortages.”

Today, agricultural land covers one quarter of the planet’s surface, which is not all used for growing food.  Of world crop production, 2748.2 million tonnes (2011), only 4% was cotton. In contrast, food crops amount to some 40 million acres and fuel crops to 32 million acres,” according to The Guardian.

Last year in 2011, the high prices of cotton prompted farmers to cultivate cotton and abandon growing food.  With this temporary trend of increasing cotton cultivation there was a drop in market prices this year, which will likely continue to the next year. Both cotton and food crops all over the world are being swapped out for biofuel crops which are comparatively lower in maintenance and easier to grow.

Additional factors like the recent floods in Australia, Pakistan and India caused a significant loss of cotton as well as food crops, contributing to a 2011 spike in cotton and food prices. India, the second largest cotton producer after China, announced a ban on export of the fiber this week. The Indian government’s immediate ban on cotton exports reflect their latest efforts to increase supply of the natural fibre in the domestic market amid fears of a low yield this year due to unfavourable weather conditions.

Cotton prices are plummeting due to factors such as the cotton price peak last year, the adoption rate of cotton crops, and the abundant 2012 cotton harvest. At this expected price level, farmers will not be able to sell their 2012 cotton; with 2013 cotton yield expected to decrease, while the market prices rebound.

History shows us that food crops have been swapped for cotton crops due to its higher monetary value in profits despite having a significantly higher maintenance cost. Today, fuel crops are being swapped for cotton and food crops due to the higher yields at market with relatively low maintenance costs.

When cotton is compared with fuel and food, it is considered a non-essential commodity with high maintenance. With the competition between biofuels and food, the proportion of land dedicated to cotton farming could decrease and diminish as a consequence.


The Guardian: ‘Does fashion fuel food shortages?’

TriplePundit: ‘Food Crops vs. Cotton: How Cheap Fashion is Threatening Food Supply’

India Bans Cotton Exports


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