CARTAGENA, Colombia — September 30, 2013 — 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
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).
Posted October 1, 2013