Friday, October 13, 2006



Although cotton subsidies paid to a handful (2500) of American corporate cotton "farmers" in the US ($US 4-5 billion/annum) is causing substantial economic prejudices and financial loses to African cotton producing nations in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and is seriously threatening both the survival of the cotton sector and the livelihoods of millions of small-scale cotton farmers throughout SSA, simply eliminating US cotton subsidies will NOT revive the cotton sector and will fail to improve the economic and social welfare of cotton farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

In fact, estimates by the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), using its World Textile Demand Model, clearly indicate that the elimination of American cotton subsidies would raise cotton prices by $US 11 cents per pound ($0,24 cents/kg).

However, any marginal increase in the price of cotton resulting from an end to trade distorting cotton subsidies is:

1) Likely going to be pocketed by the numerous players along the supply chain (i.e. traders, ginners, exporters, government, etc) and is not likely to benefit the cotton farmers in terms of higher farm-gate seed cotton prices, thus failing to reduce poverty among the most vulnerable and affected economic agent within the local cotton supply chain - the African cotton farmer.

2) Any marginal increase in the price of cotton lint resulting from an elimination of trade distorting cotton subsidies is inevitably going to be offset by the "invisible hand" of the market; an increase in the price of cotton lint is going to be followed by a corresponding increase in the supply of cotton, bringing back the price to its "equilibrium" level (i.e. demand=supply), thus offsetting the initial price increase resulting from the elimination of the cotton subsidies.

In this context, it seems evident that the solution to reviving the cotton sector in sub-Saharan Africa is to ADD-VALUE to the cotton by locally processing the cotton throughout the supply chain - from spinning yarn, weaving fabrics, dyeing & printing, designing to textile and garment manufacturing. Local value-addition of cotton will enable both cotton farmers and cotton producing nations in SSA break free from the vicious trap cycle of declining cotton prices resulting from trade distorting US/EU cotton subsidies and from the dictate of the world market. Furthermore, processing the cotton locally will create critically lacking investment, desperately needed employment and generate income, thus creating economic growth within the economy. Last but not least, it will provide decent and affordable clothing to the local inhabitants, made by Africans using local African (organic) cotton and manufactured using designs that reflect African cultures, traditions and pride - thus putting a definite end to the daily humiliation Africans have to wear in the form of used clothing - known as "Kifua" or dead white mens' clothing - dumped accross Africa (to add insult to injury!).

I am presently working on a project to revive the cotton and textile sector in sub-Saharan Africa using non-exploitative labor practices and environmentally sustainable production methods. I am hoping to demonstrate - practically through this project - that it is both economically feasible and environmentally sustainable to produce textiles and garments in cotton producing countries in SSA using non-exploitative labor practices and environmentally sustainable production methods throughout the supply chain (i.e organic cotton, natural dyes, etc.) If this project proves successful, then I am hoping that it can serve as an example and a model to be widely replicated throughout cotton producing nations in both Africa and throughout the world.

Please feel free to contact me for further information on this project.