• The Cotton Four – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali – want the WTO to increase help to enhance cotton production and develop cotton-to-textile value chains in Africa.
  • A new cotton portal, developed by the WTO and the International Trade Centre (ITC) will launch on 11 December 2017.
  • The initiative includes impact indicators covering local processing capacity, aimed at creating a robust and competitive cotton-based industry in Africa.
The Cotton Four seeks to promote the cotton sector by improving the local processing capacity

The Cotton Four seeks to promote the cotton sector by improving the local processing capacity

Four African cotton producers — Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, collectively known as the Cotton Four — have urged World Trade Organization (WTO) members to provide more assistance to boost cotton production, ahead of the launch of a new cotton portal aimed at boosting Africa's cotton industry.

Discussions during the latest WTO 'Cotton Day' earlier this month included a session of the Director-General's Consultative Framework Mechanism on Cotton, which deals with the development assistance aspects of cotton, and a dedicated meeting to review trade-related developments in the cotton sector.

A new cotton portal, developed by the WTO and the International Trade Centre (ITC) and set to be launched during the WTO's Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires on 11 December, was also presented to WTO members.

The Cotton Four (C4) – whose economies largely rely on cotton exports – presented the 'Cotton Roadmap Project,' which seeks to improve local processing capacity and develop cotton-to-textile value chains at a regional level.

The objectives of the project reach beyond the C4 region and encompass Western and Central African. The new initiative includes impact indicators covering local processing capacity, aimed at creating a robust and competitive cotton-based industry in Africa.

Project backers called on donors to provide more assistance to implement more ambitious cotton development strategies, and emphasised the need to attract private investment to match the provision of development assistance funds.

Kai Hughes, executive director of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), stressed the importance of increasing cotton yield in Africa: "If we want to make a difference in Africa, it boils down to how we should increase cotton yield," he said. Hughes also explained the role of cotton as a driver of economic growth and its contribution to food security and socio-economic and environmental sustainability.

The Agriculture and Commodities Division of the WTO presented a "transparency-enhancing tool" used to monitor the implementation status of development assistance projects in the cotton sector and for agriculture in general.

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo noted that the number of projects in the cotton-specific sector has remained stable, and the total value of commitments stands at US$203.6m, of which $113.7m has already been disbursed. The ratio of total disbursements to total commitments is at 55.8%, slightly higher than the previous period.

The Cotton Portal will provide a single entry point for all WTO and ITC cotton-specific information on market access, trade statistics, country-specific business contacts and development assistance-related information as well as links to relevant documents, webpages and other organisations active in the cotton sector.

Members also heard a report on the latest trade policies, compiled in a WTO Secretariat background document, which provides updated information on cotton based on new notifications, and includes new tables showing export volumes and share of world exports for major cotton exporters.

Kai Hughes of ICAC, meanwhile, noted that cotton planted areas have increased in recent years and cotton yields have also been increasing in many regions. As a result, world cotton production is slightly above cotton mill use; global stocks are therefore not likely to decline. He also noted that although the subsidies provided to cotton producers worldwide have been declining, it is still claimed that a majority of cotton production receives direct assistance.