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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Cotton shortage looms in the USA amid import ban from China

A global shortage of cotton is worsening rapidly due to a delayed harvest in the US, the largest exporter, as fashion brands with a footprint in China avoid cotton from the western part of the country over alleged human rights abuses there. Given that 85% of China’s cotton is produced in this region, and China accounts for more than 20% of global cotton production, this is an important development for the global cotton sector.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act follows US accusations that China has employed slavery and undertaken genocide of the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in the resource-rich region of Xinjian. The act bans imports unless companies can prove goods from the region were not produced with forced labor. In relation to cotton, the assertion is that forced labor is employed in production, picking, and processing into yarn, textiles, and apparel.

The US importers, brands, and retailers that have been sourcing products made from Xinjian cotton must now prove compliance with human rights rather than avoid investigating their potential violation otherwise change supply origins. Well-known sports brands, global fashion labels, and renowned department stores in the US and elsewhere have already sought to distance themselves from Xinjian cotton and cotton products.

Those looking for new yarn, textile, and apparel suppliers have been able to help fuel the cotton-processing industries in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Pakistan – which have already been growing due to favorable costs of production. It is fortuitous that these are also the markets Australia has been sending more cotton to in the past 18 months while receiving the unofficial cold shoulder from Chinese buyers.

Among the potential countries that could supply cotton to the USA are Australia, Pakistan, and India. Australia is well placed to verifiably supply high-quality cotton, aligns with human rights, and shows gains in sustainability. Pakistan has also significantly improved its labor laws, providing cotton to the USA and filling the gap. On the other hand, Pakistani cotton is suitable for denim and bedwear. However, Pakistan’s cotton crop is also struggling due to weather conditions and low production this year. Therefore, the country is already importing cotton to meet the buyer’s orders. The government should take proper measurements to increase the cotton yield in the future and earn maximum profit.

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