A "wall of subsidies" paid out by the US and European Union (EU) to their own farmers is preventing the world's poorest cotton farmers in West Africa from making a living, a new report claims.

According to 'The Great Cotton Stitch-Up' published by the Fairtrade Foundation, the US and EU have spent $32bn on their cotton farmers over the past nine years.

This, in turn, dampens down cotton prices for West African farmers, "restricting their ability to trade their way out of poverty and so perpetuating reliance on aid." Including China and India, a total of $47bn is said to have been paid in subsidies to cotton farmers since 2001.

With an average GDP per capita of $637, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali (known as the Cotton-4 or C-4) rely on cotton more than any other commodity for their export revenues.

These countries produce cotton more cheaply than anywhere else - a competitive advantage that logically should place them in a prime position to benefit from the world's ever increasing desire for cotton products.

But UK Secretary of State for Trade, Vince Cable, states that the C-4 have lost a total of $250m each year through the price dampening effect of US and EU subsidies.

Campaigners led by the Fairtrade Foundation are now calling on the US and EU to scrap their cotton subsidies as part of a reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the US Farm Bill, both of which are under review over the next two years.