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Spotlight | November 2016

If COFFEE can do it, COTTON can too!

Declining cotton consumption needs a big boost, and innovation only holds the key, opine industry experts.

It was a session of introspection for the cotton community! At the USA Cotton meet at the Trident Hotel in Mumbai recently, an august gathering of cotton industry experts watched with awe and avid interest at the Executive Director of Cotton Council International, Bruce A Atherley’s concerns over declining cotton consumption and call for attempts to give a boost to this natural fibre’s fortunes globally. “From 1945 to 1975, US per capita consumption of coffee fell from 46 gallons to 17 gallons – a decline of 60 per cent, because soft drinks exploded in popularity as baby boomers grew into adulthood; All coffees were the same; Women were increasingly out of the home working; coffee producers were reducing capital investment and marketing support.”

Explaining how this long-term decline in coffee was arrested and revived, he said: “But starting in the late 1970s consumption started growing – from 1975 to 2015 it grew by 35 per cent. Since 1975, total coffee consumption in the USA has grown by 92 per cent and is now higher than ever in history and as consumption is going up, prices have shown growth over the last 10 years.”

How did the change occur? “It’s all about INNOVATION, he said. Attributing the advent of Starbucks in 1971, which introduced a new wave of young adults to coffee, launch of Keurig K-Cup in 1990 that created a huge market of single-cup, at home consumption and also flavored coffees, iced coffees, coffee blends, he categorically stated that “innovation is the way to reverse the decline in cotton usage.”

Lamenting that cotton’s global share of end-use consumption has declined to below 30 per cent, Atherley said:“For over 50 years, man-made fibres (MMF) have grown at a compound rate three times that of cotton. From 2005 to 2015, cotton was nearly flat while MMF grew at 6 per cent per year. Textile fibre is a global growth category. End-use consumption grew at a compound annual growth rate of 2.9 per cent from 1964 to 1994; over the last 20 years that has increased to 3.9 per cent. Over half of end-use fibre consumption is now in Asian developing countries. Developing Asia’s growth is coming both from population growth and per capita consumption. Over the last 20 years per capita consumption has tripled. Despite Asia’s rapid increase in per capita consumption, it still has room to grow. Its per capita consumption is less than half of that of industrial countries.”

He summarised thus: “Fibre end-use consumption remains a growth market; developing Asia represents 52 per cent of global consumption and will continue to grow; developed countries fell to 32 per cent of global consumption (-10 points in ten years), and; global cotton’s volume is flat at 2005 levels and share of fibre consumption continues to fall and now stands at approximately 25 per cent.”

BK Patodia, Chairman of GTN Textiles Group, in his keynote address, said that “unless we have passion, we cannot succeed in anything we do.” He went on to say that belief is everything. “Cotton is one of the most sustainable fibres with a long history, for over 7,000 years. India recently became the top producer of cotton in the world. We account for 37 per cent global cotton acreage.”

But the woes of Indian cottons are not yet over. “Our yield per hectare is 524 kg against the global average of 765 kg, Australia’s 2,251 kg, Israel’s 1,900 kg, China’s 1,455 kg and USA’s 940. This shows that India has tremendous scope to increase the cotton yield.”

Attributing the success of cotton to the massive efforts of farmers all over the world, Patodia talked about the link of farmers with the spinning industry. “This linkage should grow stronger. There are challenges for farmers and spinners. The passion and dedication of these two have to be preserved. Supima is an example of this successful linkage and it shows how India has been importing for the last 20 years these Pima cotton for the improvement of its various textile products like clothing, home textiles, etc.”

He also touched upon the issue of contamination in Indian cottons.”Environment and sustainability are also important issues in cotton. We need good research to see that cotton stays as the best natural fibre for the betterment of humanity.” “Nature of our future depends on the future of nature,” he summed it up.

Marc Lewkowitz, President and CEO of SUPIMA, spoke on “Think ELS-Think Supima,” in which he extolled the virtues of extra long staple cotton fibres, especially Supima, 80 per cent of which is sown in the State of California, 8 per cent each in Arizona and Texas and the rest 4 per cent in New Mexico. Tracing the production and growth of PIMA cotton in the USA, he said “in exports in 2015-16, India has a share of 1,31,600 bales of 480-lb, closely following China’s 1,99,600 bales”. India’s share is 23 per cent against China’s 35 per cent.

The interesting thing is that India’s share in 2016-17 is expected to be in the region of 44 per cent at 1,31,200 bales already against China’s 24 per cent at 71,100 bales, underlining the importance Indian industry gives to the high quality US cotton, SUPIMA, world’s finest cottons, for premium fabrics.

Supima® cotton is exceptionally soft, strong and holds colour more than any other cotton. This is because the fibres of Supima® cotton are longer than that of regular cotton. The longer fibres of Supima® cotton makes it much more resistant to pilling.

Sean Callanan, Manager – Global Operations, Cotton Council International, gave break-ups of acreage and production of cooton in various areas of the US. Covering cotton production, prices and supply position, he concluded with a balanced view of the global end-stocks and exports.

In his presentation, Harminder Sahni, MD of Wazir Advisors, speaking on the “Global textile and clothing demand and its impact on the fibre consumption,” said reduction in land under cotton cultivation due to competing land use (agricultural as well as non-agricultural) will neutralise gains from yield improvement resulting in no change in cotton production over next 10 years.

Sahni felt that “share of polyester will grow from 51 per cent in 2015 to 55 per cent in 2025; while that of cotton will reduce from 31 per cent in 2015 to 28 per cent in 2025 and that increasing use in nonwovens and technical textiles, changing consumer trends including increasing emphasis on fitness and hygiene, rising brand consciousness, fast changing fashion trends, increasing women participation in workforce will further boost the demand of manmade fibres.”

Wazir Advisors MD concluded by saying: “China’s growth slowdown will also create an opportunity for Indian exporters; to cater to large buyers, Indian manufacturers will need to have an integrated or collaborative model offering economies of scale; India’s lack of duty free market access (to EU and US) could be countered by cross border investments in countries like Vietnam and Ethiopia; for international brands and retailers, India will become a high priority market; manufacturers will also have to develop multi-fibre expertise to tap business opportunities in various segments.”

There were other presentations: “E-commerce and Indian fashion” by Ashish Jhalani, Founder, E-tailing India; and “Indo-US Trade - Opportunities and Challenges” by Scott Sindelar, Minister Counsellor, FAS, New Delhi. There were four Panel Discussions focusing on Cotton USA, ELS Cotton, cotton consumption and raw material scenario.

- SAMUEL JOSEPH

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