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Exploring Latin American native cotton

When cotton is produced organically, its production “follows a model of organic farming, consisting of protecting lands - thus preventing erosion, maintaining fertility, and avoiding the use of toxic chemicals that harm both the land and the local fauna” (Parcerisa, 2018). Pima and Tanguïs cotton is the most cultivated species in Latin America, so this helps to perpetuate and consolidate many of their properties. Such properties are the length, the pureness and the uniformity of the cotton, as well as the high resistance and the comfort/softness. In addition, this way of farming improves the hypoallergenic quality and the breathability of the cotton. Hence, cotton serves as a natural luxury item for the garment.

Source- India Water Portal - Organic Cotton (Accessed 9 June 2021)

In Latin America, this certified growing method started in Peru in the 1980s. Supportive practices as the New Peruvian Environmental Code in 1990, made the country an ideal location to protect and recover the natural resources preserved by native and peasant communities (Pisani et. al, 2015). However, a decline in conventional cotton production throughout Latin America (TextileExchange, n.d.), as well as the worldwide interest for sustainable products, increased the willingness to turn to organic cotton production. Countries across the continent such as Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Colombia were the main ones to start producing in this way.

The present and future of the organic cotton production in the Latin American region

In Peru, Brazil and Argentina there are 2,119 organic cotton farmers, and 707 of them were under the Participatory Guarantee Systems during the 2018/2019 season (TextileExchange, 2020, p.39). Economically speaking, figures remained quite sluggish for Latin American countries participating in organic cotton production. Their contribution to global organic cotton production decreased from 671 to 381 tons per year, that is to say, from 12.2% of the global organic cotton output to 0.3% (Grisar, 2018). In addition, global organic cotton production rose from 5,507 tons per year (season 1996/97) to 118,000 tons per year (season 2016/17) over the last 20 years (SOCiLA, 2020). According to Alexander Grisar, founder of SOCiLA, American subsidiaries with their own cotton cropping might have been a major reason to explain this decline (Parcerisa, 2018).

However, farmers are still in a delicate situation because 1,272 ha from Peru, Brazil and Argentina are organic in-conversion lands. Many projects also flourish to enhance the potential of the continent into worldwide organic cotton production. The +Cotton project is one of them. It ensures the sustainability of cotton production in partner countries (e.g. Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Paraguay and Peru) through technical cooperation to strengthen the institutional capacities and the socio-productive inclusion of cotton farmers. Alliances between local, national and international stakeholders are crucial for a greater shift to organic cotton production as well as for strengthening good practices among countries.

The latest worldwide pandemic affected many industries, and the organic cotton one was not an exception. Price shocks may be one of the results of the crisis. Moreover, the degree of the impact will obviously rely on the economic recovery. Nevertheless, most of the organic cotton producers live in small areas, in small communities that are far from the pandemic clusters. They are properly organized and somehow life in the countryside has not changed a lot. Besides, as stated by Silvio Moraes, frequent buyers bought the harvest from the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 seasons. In addition, since the contracts are made in advance, the impact could be less sharp with the rise of organic products (TextileExchange, 2020, p.40).

Thus, the future of organic cotton production may look brighter than expected with Latin America having an important role in the shift to a sustainable and environmentally-friendly garment industry.


Pisani, E., Masiero, M. and Scrocco, S. (n.d.). Reintroduction of native cotton (Gossypium Barbadian) on the North coast of Peru: Analysis of economic feasibility for small producers. Revista de la Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, 47(1), pp.209–232.

TextileExchange (2020). Organic Cotton Market Report 2020. [online] TextileExchange, p.89. Available at:

Grisar, A. (2016). Organic cotton: potential for Latin America.

Parcerisa, C. (2018). Organic Cotton has a long way to go in Latin America. FashionUnited, [online] 11 Oct., p.3. Available at: /news/business/organic-cotton-has-a-long-way-to-go-in-latin-america/2018101139390.

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