Emerging markets dominate cotton production, with China, India, United States, Pakistan and Brazil as the world’s top 5 cotton producers— who make up nearly 80% of the global production.
China is the leading producer of cotton in recent years. In 2012, the world’s cotton production was 123 million 480 lb bales of cotton, out of which 35 million came from China, 28.5 million from India and 17.3 million from the U.S. Pakistan and Brazil rounded up the top 5 producing countries.
Cotton generally grows in the Northern hemisphere but around 8% of the world’s output comes from southern regions like Brazil and Australia. Other major producers include Uzbekistan and Turkey.
The United States is the world’s leading exporter of this cash crop, and accounts for nearly one third of the world’s traded cotton. The cotton industry in the United States is huge—generating nearly $25 billion in profits each year, and employing over 200,000 people.
Cotton grows in the U.S. cotton belt stretching over 17 southern States, with major producers including Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Georgia. Depending on the climate, the cotton planting season can start as early as March, while the harvest can go well into December. The most popular type of cotton grown in the U.S. is called American Upland which accounts for 97% of all U.S. cotton crop grown every year.
How is Cotton Used?
With growing population pressures, the demand for clothing and hence for cotton is set to grow over the years.
Emerging markets have the highest cotton demand in the world. China, India, Pakistan, Turkey and Brazil are the top five global consumers of cotton, responsible for more than 75% of the world’s consumption of cotton.
In 2012, China was the largest consumer of cotton, using 7.8 million 480 lb bales of cotton, followed by India at 4.8 and Pakistan at 2.4 million 480 lbs bales of cotton.
China presents huge demand for cotton every year. The United States is also a substantial consumer of cotton, although the recent rise of cheaper, man-made fibers, like polyester and rayon, presents a threat to cotton consumption in the country.
China was also the largest importer of cotton, purchasing 4.4 million 480 lb bales of cotton from the rest of the world in 2012. Other top importers were also in the developing world, including Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam.
Most of the raw cotton is bought by textile industry and mill users. According to the USDA, 41% of the world’s cotton mill use is in China, 16% in India and the rest distributed over the world. About 30% of the world’s cotton fiber crosses international borders before being processed.