Cartagena, Colombia -- The 72nd
Plenary Meeting of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) used its First Open Session to address what is likely the cotton industry's single greatest threat: synthetic fibers.
The panel of expert speakers during the session, entitled "Interfiber Competition: Meeting the Challenges of Competing Fibers," identified three primary areas of concern that are impacting cotton's long-term ability to succeed in the marketplace:
1. Price volatility.
Although the days of extreme volatility appear to be over, the price of natural fibers like cotton are subject to more uncertainties than their synthetic counterparts. The impact of speculative investors and interventionist government policies can cause unpredictable price spikes and plunges, and adverse weather can unexpectedly affect the crop in many of the world's top producing countries. 2. Uncertain quality control.
Unlike manmade fibers, cotton characteristics can vary greatly from one bale to the next. The industry needs to implement standardized testing systems and equipment to ensure consistency of cotton quality. 3. Loss of market share.
Although overall global cotton consumption continues to increase, it is still consistently losing market share to synthetic competitors. Vast amounts of industry research have clearly shown that consumers prefer apparel and textiles made from natural fibers, but items made from cotton typically cost more than those made from synthetic fibers like polyester.
The key to reversing the loss of market share, according to Kevin Latner, President of Cotton Council International, is unified messaging direct to the consumer.
"We know that consumers prefer cotton, but we need to do a better job of communicating the social and environmental benefits of natural fibers to them directly," he said during his presentation. "The more knowledgeable consumers are, the better. However, labels in many parts of the world don't show what materials an item is made from, so even though consumers prefer cotton, they don't always know what they're buying."
Fortunately, he concluded, there are organizations that are in good position to unify and disseminate the cotton industry's message to consumers, specifically citing the International Forum for Cotton Promotion (IFCP).
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