This Fashion Revolution Week, we stand in solidarity with our cotton farmers, workers, and producers who work hard to grow cotton to provide us with one of the important necessities of life i.e. clothing.
Network of Asia and Pacific Producers currently has 13 cotton producers supporting over 34000 cotton farmers in South and Central Asia who produce over 80-90% of Fairtrade cotton. In 2017 the global Fairtrade cotton production was 52,763 MT with approx. 47257 MT being produced in India.
With the harvest season getting over in February in South and Central Asia, much of the raw cotton has been procured from the farmers on time by the producers. However, the cotton cropping season will soon begin in India and that is a major concern expressed by many. The farmers fear the land preparation and cotton sowing will get affected due to delay in the supply of seed distribution and inputs and the shortage of cotton seeds. Usually, the seeds are distributed by the end of April or 1st week of May.
‘’Our farmers are concerned and worried that the lockdown may continue and disrupt the forthcoming cotton season starting June 2020. To ease their tension our field staffs have started visiting their villages to train them on precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID -19. We have distributed 10,000 re-usable masks and 900 soaps to our farmers and their communities and wait for more supplies to arrive’’- Ishwar Illachezian, Director – Textile Division- Suminter India Organics Pvt Ltd- Surendranagar Farmers Producer Company-FLO ID 18612
Currently, 50-75% of the ginning is completed and approx. 25 to 50% of the cotton (raw or ginned) still lies with either the producers or the ginning units which is currently shut down. While there is no work for the daily wage ginning workers, the spinning mills are struggling with huge loans to be paid to the banks (good machinery and other textile accessories). Contracts are either getting cancelled or on the verge of cancellation. There is a fear of buyers bargaining to the extent of 20-30% due to price crash and the likely disputes to arise between suppliers and buyers on who will bear the clearance charges caused by the delay.
While the cotton supply chain remains disrupted and the sector likely to face an economic downturn in the coming months, Fairtrade producers in India have been focussing on providing relief measures and awareness programs to look after the welfare of its farmers, public and private communities.
Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Limited (COAPCL); FLO ID 4018 in partnership with a newly setup Organic & FT garment factory in Krishnagiri, has manufactured PPE (masks) for distribution to govt hospitals and other private agencies involved in working with COVID related issues.
With the current extension of the lockdown in India, a large no of the population remains stranded with no shelter and food. ANANDHI TEXSTYLES PRIVATE LIMITED; FLO ID 36615, have taken the initiative to provide food for 1500 people per day for the remaining of the 21 days.
In Pakistan and Central Asia, the sowing season which started from mid- March is severely affected owing to the shortage in labor triggered by the nation-wide lockdown. The sales prices have reduced by 20% in Pakistan and the demand for cotton has slowed down due to the cancellation of orders faced by the garment industries.
South Asia Sourcing (Pvt) Limited (FLO Id 35536), a cotton producer in Pakistan, provided relief packages to the farmers and their families and surrounding communities, particularly to low-income groups whose livelihood has been affected by the pandemic. 200 families were covered by the initiative. Each relief pack included rice, pulses, flour, oil, milk, sugar, hand sanitizers, masks, and soaps.
‘’The current situation of Corona spread has forced daily wagers, labourers and small vendors to stay indoors, and left many of them bereft of income. Therefore, we felt the need to come forward and counter the economic fallout. Our team is also planning to follow up for other relief activities, we will not leave our farmers unattended at this stage of trial and turbulence’’- Mr. Bilal Bajwa Director South Asia Sourcing (Pvt) Limited
As a follow up to the prior relief work, the SAS team led by a youth volunteer visited a nearby village and initiated an awareness campaign covering 83 Farmers families and distributed the relief packages.
In Central Asia stocks of cotton fibers are yet to be shipped. The lockdown has completely disrupted the transport schedule. Some of the cooperatives are sitting on large stocks of FT cotton fiber. The producers are worried about how the market will pan out next year and how the slowdown in demand will affect them. Spinning and textile units remain closed across the countries. More than US$2 billion worth of orders are cancelled by brands and retailers in Bangladesh garment factories. The country is just one of a number in global supply chains that have been severely affected as brands cancel or postpone orders as the stores remain closed around the world.
Due to the overall closing down of processing facilities and export ports the cotton exporters are facing major challenges with sales. As cotton is a non-essential item, the recession may lead to a decrease in purchase in the overseas market and excessive stockpiling, eventually leading to disrupting the entire supply chain.
Millions of cotton producers across the globe continue to face the brunt of the unprecedented impact. Since agriculture is not meant for ‘work from home’ set up, the continuous lockdown will not only lead to a decrease in production but a loss of income and food security for farmers and workers. Cancellation of contracts and price negotiations leaves very little room for cotton producers to even cover the cost of sustainable production. We call upon our partners and consumers worldwide to continue supporting a sustainable and ethical trade to ensure farmers and workers who work-day in -and- out to provide you an ethical fashion are well protected to overcome the crisis.
You can be a part of the Fashion Revolution week #WhoMadeMyClothes by asking your favorite brand to act fairly and choose a traceable, ethical and transparent supply chain.