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  • Inter-fibre competition

    Chapter 1 - The world cotton market - Overview 


    Cotton faces competition from chemical fibres (see figure 1.12). At the start of the twentieth century, cotton had a dominant share of the textile market. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, cotton is one of many fibres available and has been surpassed by polyester. Cotton consumption per capita has been almost constant since 1960, while total textile fibre consumption per capita has more than doubled.

    Source: ICAC

    World consumption of all textile fibres, including cotton, chemical fibres and wool, increased at an impressive pace, from 9.6 million tons in 1950 to 56 million tons in 2004. Fibres competing with cotton include natural fibres and chemical fibres, primarily polyester. Cotton’s share of world textile fibre use fell from more than 70% in the 1950s to less than 50% by the end of the 1970s. Cotton did better in the 1980s, but its share of world textile fibre fell to about 40% by 2005 (see figure 1.13).

    Source: ICAC

    Cotton’s major advantages over its primary competitors in the chemical fibre complex include wearing comfort, natural appearance, moisture absorbency, its status as a renewable resource and the important economic role of cotton in many producing countries. However, cotton also suffers from several disadvantages in comparison with chemical fibres, including contamination introduced during harvest, ginning and handling, and annual fluctuations in the quantity and quality of production and consequent variability in prices. Cotton also has difficulty meeting the needs of modern spinning equipment for strength, uniformity and other quality parameters.

    Cotton’s share of world fibre use exceeded 60% in the 1960s, fell to 50% during the 1980s and dropped to less than 40% in the early 2000s. However, cotton experienced a revival in use during 2004 and 2005 linked to lower prices, and cotton’s share of fibre use increased to above 40% in 2005. However, over the longer term, cotton is expected to continue to lose market share.