Thessaloniki, Greece, November 4, 2014 -- Even as cotton-producing nations around the world seek to differentiate their fiber based on its unique quality characteristics, one concept unites them all:
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and cotton's true enemy is synthetic fibers.
That was the consensus among panelists and attendees at the Fourth Open Session of the International Cotton Advisory Committee's 73rd
Plenary Meeting, "National Cotton Brands: Strengthening Awareness of the Attributes of Cotton."
The panel included speakers from four major producing countries: Australia (Michael Murray, Cotton Australia), Brazil (Joao Luiz Ribas Pessa, ABRAPA), Greece (Vasileios Mereas, Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food) and the United States (Kevin Latner, Cotton Council International).
As important as cotton is to so many national economies, it's no surprise that countries are going to such great lengths to build and protect the value of their brands:
* Brazil ships about 700,000 tons of cotton per year to the international marketplace, making it the world's fifth-largest exporter.
* The United States represents about 25% of the global cotton trade and has spent more than $200 million dollars to raise the global visibility and awareness of cotton's benefits.
* Australia's cotton industry is only about 50 years old -- very short, given that cotton has been used for thousands of years -- but it already boasts yields almost three times higher than the world average.
* Greece, which hosted the 1968 ICAC Plenary Meeting in Athens in addition to this year's meeting in Thessaloniki, accounts for about 85% of the cotton production of the European Union (with Spain producing the remaining 15%).
Anything that involves the buying and selling of products or services will ultimately have an element of competition. More to the point, the value of cotton is based on more than a dozen different quality characteristics, each of which can vary widely based on where the fiber was grown. That makes the nation of origin a very relevant factor in pricing.
But in the end, all of the speakers agreed that in light of cotton's ongoing battle with synthetic fibers, it's critical that all cotton-producing nations speak with a unified voice.
"Cotton is a business and competition is healthy, but at the end of the day, it's in all of our best interests to work together to increase the overall size of the pie," Latner said.