A recent report issued by the Cotton Advisory Committee suggests that cotton is the fibre of choice for consumers in the western world. Europeans, in particular, it says are enthusiastic about the environmentally friendly properties of biodegradable natural fibres.

Yet the same survey suggests that what consumers are actually buying is more and more manmade fibre fabrics, particularly polyester and polyester blends.

And this is a trend the CAC believes will steadily accelerate.

Its prediction is that although global consumption of all types of fibre will continue to rise - by 2010 world take-up will top 59 million tons, 10 million tons more than in 2001 - the contribution of manmades will also steadily increase.

According to the CAC the growth in demand for polyester is partly due to the technical improvements that have been made over the last few years, particularly in respect of moisture absorption.

However, cotton still comprises some 40 per cent of all fibre consumption worldwide. On the natural fibre front this compares with a mere 2.5 per cent for wool and 0.2 per cent for silk.

By Sonia Roberts.