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  • Africa in perspective

    Chapter 1 - The world cotton market - Overview 


    In Africa, cotton production increased from 1.3 million tons in 1990/91 to 1.8 million tons in 1997/98, but low cotton prices discouraged additional increases in African production in the following years. African production rose to 2 million tons in 2004/05 but fell to 1.6 million tons in 2006/07. Francophone countries in West and Central Africa produced 870,000 tons in 2006/07, accounting for 54% of production in the continent.

    Cotton production in Africa as a whole rose by 3% per year from 1994/95 to 2005/06, after having been flat during the 1980s and early 1990s. The growth in African production coincided with a devaluation of the CFA franc. However, production has not grown in all countries. Production in North Africa has changed little since 1994/95, at 380,000 tons, while production in francophone Africa rose from 600,000 tons to 900,000 tons. Production in Southern and East Africa rose from 280,000 tons in 1994/95 to 460,000 tons in 2005/06.



    Source: ICAC

    However the expansion in African production came mostly from increases in area devoted to cotton, rather than rising yields (see figure 1.6). During the first three seasons of the 1980s, the average cotton yield across Africa was 336 kilograms per hectare, which equalled 78% of the world yield at that time of 433 kilograms per hectare. By the early 1990s, the average African yield had risen to 362 kilograms, but this was just 63% of the world yield. And, during the three most recent seasons, the average African cotton yield was barely changed at 369 kilograms per hectare, just 52% of the world yield of 705 kilograms. There are a number of reasons why yields in Africa have not risen in tandem with the world yield, including lack of access to inputs, weak research and extension systems in many countries, and the fact that very little irrigation is used on cotton in Africa, while more than half of world production is irrigated.

    African cotton area rose from a three-year average of 3.5 million hectares in the early 1980s, representing 10% of world area, to an average of 4.9 million hectares currently, accounting for 14% of world area. Cotton area in East and Southern Africa fell from 1.9 million hectares in the early 1980s to 1.1 million hectares during one year in 1993/94, before rising again to 2 million hectares currently. The area devoted to cotton in North Africa fell from 880,000 hectares during the early 1980s to about half that level currently, while cotton production in the francophone region showed impressive gains, rising from 670,000 hectares in the 1980s to 2.4 million hectares currently. The devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994 gave a boost to cotton production in francophone Africa.

    African cotton exports climbed from about 600,000 tons in the early 1980s to an estimated 1.6 million tons currently (see figure 1.7). Exports from North Africa are trending downward and are estimated at less than 200,000 tons this season. However, exports from Southern and East Africa are expanding to nearly 400,000 tons this season, and exports from the francophone region are forecast at a near record of 1million tons. Burkina Faso is the largest exporter from Africa, accounting for 300,000 tons in 2005/06; Mali is second, with 250,000 tons in 2005/06; and Benin, Cameroon and Egypt exported 100,000 tons or more. In total, 30 countries in Africa export some cotton while 37 countries are producing cotton. Egypt, Morocco and South Africa are the largest importers and combine to account for about 160,000 tons.


    Source: ICAC

    As was the case for exporters around the world, during 2005/06 the largest market for African cotton exports was China, which has taken between one-third and one-half of African exports in recent seasons. Indonesia, Bangladesh, Viet Nam, Chinese Taipei and Thailand are also significant markets for African exports. India has become an important importer in recent years, especially for fine cottons from Egypt.