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The natural fibres economy – how the four percent of world’s population makes a living

By Angela Gonzalez-Rodriguez


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Business |ANALYSIS

About 4 percent of the world’s population live on their income from the natural fibre production, with an estimated 40-45 million households living on the incomes they get from harvesting and producing cotton alone.

FashionUnited Business Intelligence team has looked into the figures behind the natural fibres economy. Data from 2013 reveal that world natural fibre production is estimated at 33 million tons (26 million tons of cotton, 3.3 million tons of jute, 1.2 million tons of clean wool, and 900,000 tons of fibres made from coconut husks.)

Cotton is grown commercially in circa 80 countries and represents 2.5 percent of world’s arable land

The farm value of natural fibre production in 2013 was around 60 billion dollars, of which cotton accounted for 45 billion dollars, wool 8-9 billion dollars, and jute 2 billion dollars. All other natural fibres together contributed an aggregated 3 billion dollars to the balance.

Cotton is grown commercially in about 80 countries on approximately 2.5 percent of the world’s arable land, what makes it one of the most significant of all cash crops.

An estimated 40-45 million households are involved in cotton production around the world each season, and including seasonal labour, an estimated 250 million people are employed in cotton production during some parts of each season.

Cotton provides a livelihood, whether in whole or partially, to about 250 million people, many of whom live in some of the poorest areas in the world.

Global wool production was 1.2 million tons in 2013.

While the production of natural fibre has doubled since the 1970s, it has increased almost fivefold for artificial fibres.

In 1960, the world’s population was three billion and cotton consumption totalled 9.4 million tons - 3.14 kg per capita. Fast-forward to 2015 and the global consumption is 22.5 million tons for a population of 7.4 billion - 3.4 kg per head - but cotton now represents only 26 percent of the global consumption of fibres.

Although cotton’s share of world fibre demand has been declining, total cotton consumption has been trending upward for the past 5 years, with the exception of a slight decline in 2015, according to the National Cotton Council of America.

Image: cotton harvest

FashionUNited Business Intelligence