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  • Production

    Chapter 1 - The world cotton market - Overview 


    The world cotton industry has experienced dramatic changes over the last five decades as production nearly quadrupled, rising from 6.6 million tons in 1950/51 to a record of 26.3 million tons in 2004/05 (see figure 1.1). The average rate of growth in world production over the last five decades has been about 2.5% per year, or about 280,000 tons per year. Growth in cotton production was steady during the 1950s and 1960s but slowed during the 1970s because of slower world economic growth and limited gains in cotton yields. World cotton production exploded from 14 million tons in the early 1980s to 19 million tons in 1984/85, as market incentives and the widespread use of better seed varieties and better methods of plant protection led to increased yields. World production climbed to a record of nearly 21 million tons in 1991/92 but levelled off during the 1990s. With the commercial application of biotech cotton varieties beginning in 1996 and the expansion of cotton areas in francophone Africa, Australia, central Brazil, western China, and Turkey, world production exceeded 26 million tons in 2004/05 and has remained nearly as high during the two seasons since.

    Since 1950/51, the world area dedicated to cotton has fluctuated between 28 million hectares and 36 million hectares; the average has been 32.7 million hectares (see figure 1.2). While there have been dramatic reductions in cotton area in some regions since the 1950s, particularly in the United States, North Brazil and North Africa, there have been offsetting increases in francophone Africa, Australia, China, India, Pakistan and the Middle East. With total area showing no tendency to rise, all the growth in world cotton production since the 1940s has come from improved yields.

    Source: ICAC


    Source: ICAC

    The world cotton yield in the early 1950s was 230 kilograms of lint per hectare (see figure 1.3). Yields rose steadily at an average rate of more than 2% per year during the 1950s and 1960s, and then grew more slowly from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s. During the 1980s the world cotton yield rose dramatically, reaching a record of nearly 600 kilograms per hectare in 1991/92. However, yields stagnated during the 1990s due to problems associated with diseases, resistance to pesticides, and disruption of production for economic reasons. Yields began rising again in the late 1990s with improvements in seed varieties and the use of biotech varieties, and the world yield in 2004/05 reached a record 747 kilograms per hectare. The yield in 2006/07 is estimated at essentially the same level, and still well above the previous five-year average. The average rate of increase over the last six decades has been a little more than 8 kilograms per hectare per year.


    Source: ICAC