Magazine article International Trade Forum

Enhancing the Cotton Value Chain for the 'Cotton Four': Cotton Roadmap Project Aims to Promote, Expand Cotton Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Enhancing the Cotton Value Chain for the 'Cotton Four': Cotton Roadmap Project Aims to Promote, Expand Cotton Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa

Article excerpt

Cotton is one of the world's most actively traded commodities. It is also a product of vital importance to the economic development and poverty reduction strategies for a number of developing economies, and particularly the least developed among them.

Four cotton producers in sub-Saharan Africa--Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, known as the Cotton Four or C4--are leaders in an industry that is essential to each country's economic and social development and well-being. However, all four face challenges in production, processing and marketing of their cotton and its by-products. The International Trade Centre (ITC) and World Trade Organization (WTO) are working to help solve them.

The Cotton Roadmap Project, developed by the C4 in cooperation with ITC, seeks to address these issues through optimizing production, improving local processing capacity and developing regional cotton-to-textile value chains. The objectives of the project reach well beyond the C4 region, also encompassing the Western and Central African sub-region.

PROCESSING GAP

One of the challenges facing the C4 is that they produce the lowest yield per hectare of cottonseed in the world, with average annual production estimated at 500,000 tonnes. Cotton processing capacity at the local level is close to zero and is at less than 2% for all four countries combined.

This has led to the countries' national wealth and the creation of jobs being sent outside the C4, with huge attendant losses in revenue. In addition, access to markets is diminished by anti-competitive policies such as export subsidies and other internal policies that have a distorting effect on the market.

In light of these issues, developing value chains seems the best option for enhancing he cotton industry, consequently generating jobs and wealth. C4 countries already have a potential market of 400 million consumers in West and Central Africa.

COTTONSEED BY-PRODUCTS

The value of fibre obtained from one tonne of cottonseed is three to four times greater than the combined value of oil and cake (the solid mass remaining after the oil has been pressed from cottonseeds) obtained from seed processing. For that reason, the production of cottonseed oil and cake are often neglected in some countries. However, revenue from the sale of seeds largely covers the cost of ginning, a process where the lint and seed are separated. In Cameroon, for example, the Societe' de developpement du coton du Cameroun (Sodecoton) has been shielded from huge losses that affected other West and Central African countries, mainly thanks to cross-subsidization resulting from its profitable cotton oil trade. …

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