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Fairtrade Cotton

Cotton on to Fairtrade Cotton!

Fairtrade logoAround 110 million rural households worldwide depend on cotton for their livelihoods.

The majority of cotton farmers in developing countries farm small plots of land and are often highly dependent upon the income they gain from cotton farming. This places them in a very vulnerable situation and many of them belong to the poorest sectors of society.

Cotton farmers have been severely affected by the fluctuations in world cotton prices which have come about because of competition from synthetic fibres, subsidised cotton production in the US, EU and China, and unpredictable environmental conditions.


Fairtrade certified cotton was launched on the UK market in 2005 from smallholder cooperatives in Cameroon, India, Mali, Peru and Senegal. Since then, the number of registered cooperatives has increased considerably.  Fairtrade cotton certification is now helping over 100,000 people - farmers, workers and their families - to improve their lives, and there are plans underway to extend certification to producer groups in 76 countries around the world. The impact of this will be enormous.

Conventional cotton is grown using large amounts of pesticides, many of which are toxic chemicals. It is estimated that 50% of the pesticides used in India are used on cotton fields. Legislation concerning the use of pesticides on cotton is generally much weaker than legislation concerning food production because humans do not consume it internally. However, all pesticides have the potential to deplete biodiversity, contaminate water supplies, damage soil fertility and cause long-term damage to farmers’ health. The World Health Organisation estimates that 20,000 people die from pesticide poisoning each year in developing countries.

Pesticide dependency also leads many farmers into crippling debt as pesticides and fertilisers are bought on credit which has to be paid even when harvests fail. In some cotton growing areas, the cost of chemicals amounts to 60% of production costs.

Under the Fairtrade system, cotton farmers have to adhere to strict environmental standards and are forbidden from using dangerous chemicals. They are actively encouraged to implement integrated crop management so that they can move progressively to organic cotton production. Many have already done so, as is evident from the high percentage of cotton on the market which is both organic and Fairtrade.

An increasingly wide range of Fairtrade certified cotton products can now be found in high street stores, including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Monsoon, Top Shop and Next. Debenhams has teamed up with Steve Redgrave, five-times Olympic Gold Medal holder, to launch the FiveG range of clothing made with Fairtrade cotton from Mali.

Fairtrade clothing, household textiles and accessories are also available from small pioneering Fair Trade companies who make sure that Fair Trade principles apply to every stage of the production process.


Many of these companies are included in the following list of suppliers of Fairtrade cotton: 

Bishopston Trading Company: Fairtrade and organic clothing, textiles and accessories

Clean Slate: Fairtrade and organic schoolwear

Epona: Fairtrade and organic clothing and accessories

Ethical Threads: Fairtrade and organic clothing

Fair and Square: Fairtrade and organic household textiles

Gossypium: Fairtrade and organic clothing, childrenswear and accessories

Hug: Fairtrade and organic fashion

People Tree: Fairtrade and organic fashion

Traidcraft: Fairtrade and organic clothing and household textiles

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