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May 26, 2010

Organic cotton sales hit estimated $4.3 billion in 2009

Retail sales of organic cotton apparel and home textile reached an estimated $4.3 billion in 2009, up a whopping 35% from a year earlier, according to the Organic Cotton Market Report 2009 released by the non-profit organization Organic Exchange (OE).

The growth shows the recession failed to temper demand for organic cotton. Retail sales of organic cotton grew at an annual average rate of 40% from 2001-2009. It also demonstrates considerable growth at a time when the overall global apparel and household textiles market decreased almost 7% from 2008. Companies reported significant, and in some cases phenomenal, growth of their organic cotton programs and increased adoption of standards addressing organic product traceability and sustainable textile processing.

According to the results of OE surveys and interviews, the Top Twelve organic cotton-using brands and retailers globally in 2009 were: C&A (Belgium), Nike, Inc. (Oregon, USA), Walmart (Arkansas, USA), Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (California, USA and recorded last year as Pottery Barn), H&M (Sweden), Anvil Knitwear (New York, USA), Coop Switzerland, Greensource Organic Clothing Co. (Washington, USA), Levi Strauss & Co. (California, USA), Target (Minnesota, USA), adidas (Germany), and Nordstrom (Washington, USA).

"Many people thought the recession would mean an end to all things organic, but the market reacted in quite the opposite way," said LaRhea Pepper, OE senior director and co-author of the report. "Consumers dug in their heels and continued to support the use of organic cotton and other sustainable fibers, while brands and retailer maintained or even expanded their commitments to making their product lines more sustainable by continuing to increase their use of such fibers and safer manufacturing processes," she continued.

OE projects the global organic cotton market will grow 20 to 40 percent in both 2010 and 2011 to result in an estimated $5.1 billion market in 2010 and $6.0 billion market in 2011.

The continued rapid expansion of the global organic cotton market was driven in large measure by consumer interest in 'green' products, significant expansion of existing organic cotton programs by brands and retailers, and the launch of organic cotton programs by new entrants to the market.

Companies increasingly became certified to traceability standards such as the OE Blended or OE 100 standard as it helps users track their actual use of organic fiber from the field to the finished product, contributing to the increasing integrity of the organic fiber market. Many manufacturers also became certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) which addresses textile's processing stages and includes strong labor provisions.

Organic cotton production in 2008/09 grew an impressive 20 percent over 2007/08 from 145,872 metric tons (MT) to 175,113 MT (802,599 bales) and was grown on 625,000 acres (253,000 hectares) in 22 countries. Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers or genetically modified seeds.

Founded in 2002, Organic Exchange facilitates expansion of the global organic cotton fiber supply by working closely with the entire value chain, from farmers to retailers, to help develop organic cotton programs. OE has hosted numerous organic cotton conferences and trainings in supply chain centers around the world, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

OE's 8th Organic Exchange Global Conference and Marketplace will take place in New York City, NY, October 27-28, 2010.

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