By  on February 26, 2008

GENEVA — Twenty-two percent of raw cotton sold in the last two years was seriously or moderately contaminated, which poses a burden for spinning mills, according to a global industry survey.

The study by the International Textile Manufacturers Federation, based on data provided by 114 spinning mills in 23 countries that evaluated 72 cotton crops, found that 7 percent was seriously contaminated by foreign matter such as leaves, feathers, paper and leather. Other contaminants were fabrics made of plastic film or cotton, and strings made of plastic or jute. Another 15 percent of cotton evaluated was moderately contaminated.

The mills either have to decontaminate or discard the cotton, which also could damage machinery.

The most contaminated cotton originated in India, Togo, Turkey, Mali and Uzbekistan. The clean cotton was produced in the U.S. in areas such as Memphis, the Texas High Plains, Pima, Ariz., and Southeastern California, along with Australia, Brazil, Israel and Cameroon.

The report found that 21 percent of all evaluations by the spinning mills revealed the presence of sticky cotton, which remains a major challenge for the industry. Sticky cotton, which can gum up processing machinery, is primarily caused by feeding insects depositing entomological sugars on the plants, or it may be produced by the cotton plant itself.

The cottons most affected by stickiness was from Benin, Cameroon and Uzbekistan, and some U.S. cotton crops from parts of Arizona and California, while cotton hardly affected by stickiness originated in Greece, India, Turkey, Egypt, Zimbabwe and some U.S. cotton crops, including Southeastern California and the Texas High Plains.

In addition, the study noted that seed-coat fragments remain an issue for spinners worldwide, with 37 percent reporting they encountered them. The cotton most adversely affected by seed-coat fragments was from India, Uzbekistan, Chad, Benin, Turkmenistan and the Ivory Coast. In contrast, seed-coat fragments were negligible in cotton from the U.S., Australia, Egypt, Greece and Cameroon.

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