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OCA and the True Potential of Organic Cotton
Written by Eco Fashion World - Tuesday, 08 August 2017



A prosperous organic cotton sector benefits everyone—from farmer to consumer. To realize the sector’s potential, we need to bring about the conditions that will allow the crop that safeguards the environment and enhances farmer livelihoods to flourish.

The issue as to whether growing organic cotton produces lower yields is a hot topic. Clarity on this issue is important for understanding how far the lower social and environmental costs of organic cotton production are realized in practice.

To understand this issue, it is helpful to distinguish between organic cotton farming’s potential and what still needs to be done to fully realize that potential. Worldwide, organic cotton yield figures are highly variable. Organic cotton fiber yields reach up to 1,687 kg per hectare in Turkey, but just 508 kg per hectare in India, the world’s largest producer of organic cotton. Reaching the higher end of this yield spectrum is possible if the right enabling conditions are in place.



This is where the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) comes in.  OCA partners have joined forces to solve the sector’s problems and ensure the yields and benefits of organic cotton reach their full potential. OCA partners are piloting interventions designed to improve the organic cotton farmer business case, increase transparency in the supply chain, and secure availability and access to quality, high-yielding organic seed varieties. OCA plans to scale these interventions to ensure the environmental, economic and social benefits of organic cotton are fully maximized.




Redirecting investment and efforts in the sector in such an aligned way will help to overcome concerns that organic cotton is a high cost and scarce crop.  At present, organic cotton makes up less than 0.47% of the global cotton market, based on latest available figures from 2014-15. OCA partners are working together to enhance the integrity of organic cotton and better align supply and demand mechanisms. This will help organic cotton to reach economies of scale, and become more price-competitive and readily available to consumers.

Moreover, when it comes to cotton growing, the costs are not always financial. The negative environmental and social externalities of conventionally grown cotton are not included in the final retail price. Supporting organic also means supporting a system that is dedicated to enhancing environmental protection, promoting a long-term and resilient cotton sector, and enhancing farmer livelihoods.

It is important to bring awareness to issues associated with cotton production, but OCA believes this should lead towards more discussions on the potential of organic. The benefits of this sector for people and planet are too great to miss, and the solutions to unlocking these benefits lie within our reach. OCA is dedicated to continuing its collective action to allow the organic cotton sector to reach its full potential.



Alongside their partners, the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) supports the view that organic cotton farming techniques bring positive environmental and social impacts:


  1. Organic farming helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions and enhance long-term ecosystem preservation by promoting healthy soils that store high quantities of carbon.
  2. Organic cotton farmers commit to using natural interventions wherever possible, and avoid the use of synthetic chemicals and pesticides (organic pesticides are permitted but are severely restricted and only used as a last resort).
  3. Avoiding genetically modified crops encourages hybrid variation in cottonseeds, which helps to preserve and develop locally suited and climate-resilient seed varieties. By contributing to increasing the diversity of cultivars, organic cotton is more resilient to potential pathogens than genetically homogenous monocultures.
  4. As organic agricultural practices build organic matter in soils, they have a higher water holding capacity and less water is used overall for organic cotton farming.
  5. Organic cotton farming also brings multiple benefits to farmers, especially smallholders who make up the vast percentage of all cotton farmers. Under the right conditions, organic farming offers better livelihoods to farmers through a combination of lower production costs and reduced indebtedness. This is because organic farmers do not rely on the costly chemical inputs that smallholder conventional cotton farmers spend up to 60% of their annual income on. In addition, the premium prices paid for organic products helps farmers to increase their incomes, while the non-use of agro-chemicals contributes to better health.
  6. Organic cotton is mostly farmed in rotation with other crops. Organic farmers grow an average of six other food crops alongside organic cotton on their farms, especially in countries like India. This more holistic farming approach brings numerous benefits, such as enhanced food security and safer food crops.

More detailed information about the multiple environmental and social benefits of organic cotton can be found here on the Organic Cotton Accelerator’s website.


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