Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) – a group of industry partners whose goal is to unleash the potential of organic cotton for farmers, brands and the planet – says last year, its Farm Programme saw a 180% increase in farmer numbers compared to the previous season. These farmers earned on average 21% more in net profit from their cotton per hectare than their local non-organic peers, it adds.

The news comes as the OCA latest Farm Programme Impact report is released today (30 March), underlining what it calls the business case for farmers to grow organic cotton. Brands and retailers participating in OCA’s Farm Programme financially support the critical services provided to farmers, ranging from training in organic practices, supply of seed and bio-inputs and procurement at a premium price.

The demand for organic cotton is increasing among many fashion brands, OCA says, pointing to Danish retailer Bestseller which recently set a target of sourcing 30% organic cotton by 2025, and H&M Group which has introduced in-conversion cotton to its sustainable material portfolio with an ambition to support farmers during transition and accelerate capacity building in the organic cotton sector.

“Organic cotton holds the key to a more sustainable fashion system and we see demand getting stronger. More farmers are switching to organic farming and more global brands and retailers are expanding their organic cotton sourcing and investing the support required for farmers to grow organic successfully,” Bart Vollaard, executive director at OCA, says.

“That is good news for farmers and for the planet, but switching to organic cotton is a long haul. It takes up to three years for farmers to convert to organic cotton farming, a necessary period to build up the soil fertility and re-establish the balance of the ecosystem and farmers must be supported during this time  – which is one of the key roles that OCA plays.”

Hitesh Sharma, material programme manager for cotton at H&M Group, adds: “As one of the largest consumers of organic cotton, it’s important for the H&M Group to invest in the development of the organic cotton sector.

“As a founding member of OCA, we’ve been working together to build a sustainable organic cotton supply and financially support cotton farmers. Since our first farm project with OCA in 2017, we have continued to scale the volumes we source through the OCA Farm Programme every year. The partners and farmers involved in these projects have continued to engage with us on this journey, demonstrating the commitment required from all parties if we are to realise the future of the organic cotton sector.”

The OCA recently joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) to help drive what it calls the necessary changes across the supply chain.

Click here to read the Farm Programme Impact Report for season 20/21 in full.