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February 6, 2019

Pakistan takes first step towards organic cotton supply chain

By Beth Wright

The certification of Pakistan’s first organic cotton bale has been hailed as a “major breakthrough” in the country’s cotton sector, marking the first step towards the potential development of an organic cotton supply chain in the South Asian country. 

The milestone is the result of a programme that was launched in Baluchistan about four years ago by C&A Foundation and WWF-Pakistan, in partnership with the Directorate of Agriculture Extension of Baluchistan.

With funding support from C&A Foundation, WWF Pakistan has been working together with Baluchistan’s Directorate of Agriculture Extension since 2015 on an initiative to promote organic cotton cultivation amongst small and marginal tribal farmers. Through the partnership, around 4,000 smallholder farmers have been trained and are now beginning to see the fruits of their labour.

Pakistan is the fifth largest producer of cotton in the world and the third largest exporter of raw cotton. Cotton and cotton products contribute about 10% to GDP and 55% to the foreign exchange earnings of the country. Overall, between 30% and 40% of cotton is consumed domestically as final products. The remainder is exported as raw cotton, yarn, cloth and garments. 

Organic cotton is grown without using any chemical fertilisers or pesticides and is cultivated on land that is detoxified from residues of chemical fertilisers and pesticides over a period of at least three years. Further, the seeds used to grow organic cotton are not genetically modified and are kept clean from chemical impurities during processing and packaging. If the cotton crop produced adheres to the standards of organic cotton farming in its initial two years it is called in conversion cotton. By the third year, the yield is certified as organic cotton.

To celebrate the milestone of the first bale of certified organic cotton, participants from government departments, WWF-Pakistan and the cotton supply chain attended an event organised at AA Cotton Ginning Factory in Sadiqabad. 

“Four years ago, at the invitation of C&A Foundation, WWF-Pakistan accepted the challenge to launch an organic cotton programme in Baluchistan. Today, we are proud of the achievement of this joint initiative between WWF-Pakistan, the Directorate of Agriculture Extension of Baluchistan, and C&A Foundation,” says Anita Chester, head of sustainable raw materials for C&A Foundation. “This is a landmark moment for the cotton sector in the country and we applaud the farmers in making this happen. While there is still more to be done in addressing the challenges related to non-GMO seeds and certification infrastructure, we believe that this is a promising start to the scale up of organic cotton in Pakistan.”

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