The Better Cotton Initiative took some big strides last year as it looks to spread the global program.
The BCI “2014 Harvest Report” released Monday shows a substantial increase in the number of farmers and countries, as well as environmental and economic improvements.
There were 1.2 million farmers participating in BCI’s program last year, up 79 percent from 2013. BCI farmers produced two million metric tons of Better Cotton lint, a 118 percent increase on the previous year. Better Cotton made up 7.6 percent of global cotton production, which grew to include 20 countries worldwide, five more than in 2013.
The report highlights several examples of improved results, noting Better Cotton farmers in Pakistan used 15 percent less pesticide, 19 percent less synthetic fertilizer, 18 percent less water and increased their profits 46 percent as compared to comparison farmers. In India, BCI farmers applied on average 20 percent less pesticide active ingredient than comparison farmers and 33 percent less synthetic fertilizer. In Mali, BCI farmers applied on average 51 percent less pesticide active ingredient than comparison farmers and used 12 percent more organic fertilizer.
Better Cotton grew to account for more than 45 percent of the national cotton crop in Brazil, making the country the largest source of Better Cotton globally, while in the U.S., the first year of BCI participation saw a pilot project of 21 growers in four states completing a self-assessment, hosted an on-farm visit by independent verifiers to confirm they met BCI’s criteria for environmental stewardship and working conditions, and reported the results to BCI. All farmers who completed the process are now licensed to sell Better Cotton to participating merchants. These farmers produced a volume of 12,000 metric tons of Better Cotton in the year.
Patrick Laine, outgoing chief executive officer of BCI, said, “Most notably the year’s results confirmed the underlying premise of our model: higher yields, reduced inputs of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, resulting in much higher income for our farmers. As the 2015 season continues, we’re making strong progress toward establishing Better Cotton as a more sustainable mainstream commodity.”
BCI’s mission is to work with a diverse range of stakeholders, connecting people and organizations across the cotton sector from field to store, to promote measurable and continuing improvements for the environment, farming communities and the economies of cotton-producing areas.
In releasing the report, the group noted that Better Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles across the world and when releasing data, it must first collect, check and collate information from every region, resulting in 2014 harvest data being collated late in the following year.