To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

June 22, 2007

The prospects for organic cotton in South Africa

One of the images that the organic cotton movement uses in its publicity material is a photograph of a gaggle of children waving happily from the middle of a field of cotton plants. Not particularly remarkable, until you read the claims made in the print alongside : that conventionally grown cotton accounts for about a quarter of total world usage of insecticides, including a number that are highly toxic to humans.

This is in addition to the herbicides applied to the soil to inhibit weeds. The field where the happy kids are standing is, naturally, organic.

"When you shift to organic you can actually be in your fields," advocate of organic farming Rebecca Calahan Klein said in Cape Town. "When you use chemicals you can't actually be in your fields most of the growing season, it's too toxic."

Klein, who is programme development director of the United States-based non-profit organisation Organic Exchange, is in South Africa to spread her message in the hope that local farmers will also make the change. Her organisation, along with retailer Woolworths, which is already marketing an organic cotton clothing line, are hosting a conference in Cape Town looking at issues that include how to sustain an organically grown cotton industry on the African continent.

Klein said that organic growing involved a very different philosophy to conventional cotton farming. Non-organic farmers used chemicals to defoliate the cotton plant and kill it off as the harvest approached. "When the plant is dying it's like 'Oh I want to reproduce! I want to reproduce!' And it pops open and then you can pick the cotton."

Organic cotton's seed on the other hand was not tampered with through genetic modification, and no synthetic chemicals or fertilisers were used. Instead the plant was nourished by creating a rich and loose soil, she explained.

Klein said that while there were currently no South African farmers growing cotton organically, the potential and necessity for the industry was certainly there. She said that in South Africa there were already a lot of organic farmers growing food. "South Africa could have organic cotton next year if one of the organic farmers growing food says, 'Oh one of the crops I'd like to grow this year would be cotton'." Klein said the small-scale farmers common in South Africa could easily switch to organic cotton because they typically already used little or no chemicals on their farms.

According to proponents of the organic movement, sales of organic cotton worldwide are expected to top $2.5-billion by the end of next year.

South Africa was a prime area for developing an organic cotton industry because its strong manufacturing base would allow a complete chain of production. She also said the region was well positioned for export opportunities.

Klein said that while her organisation did not have any projections for the South African organic cotton market, it hoped it would fit in with the aim of seeing between seven and 10 percent of the world's cotton supply organic in the next 10 to 15 years.

Business Report

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings expo exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture hydroponics ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maiz maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by Ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP