Mercados y Comercio


Cotton, the fabric of our lives.

Cotton is an important means of livelihood for millions of smallholders, providing employment and income, and attracting export revenues to some of the poorest countries. This makes the sector a key contributor to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Commodity in focus

Cotton is the most important of the natural fibres due to its rapid growth rate and wide range of applications in apparel and home furnishings. Demand for cotton is a derived demand, as it depends on global demand for textile products. Competition from substitutes such as polyester and other synthetic fibres also influences the performance of the sector. Over the last decade, textiles utilisation has risen steadily mainly driven by population and income growth mostly in developing countries, particularly in Asia. Moreover, demand for natural fibres has expanded quite markedly in recent years, sustained by a growing trend for sustainability.


Cotton contributes significantly to the economies of many developing countries and to the livelihoods of millions of rural smallholders worldwide.

The performance of the cotton sector is influenced by cotton policies and programmes implemented at country level.

Cotton faces a number of challenges such as climate change, low productivity, and the price-cost squeeze faced by actors along the value chain.

The mobilisation of innovative technologies and resources is vital to ensure that the sector remains viable and sustainable.

Did you know?

  • The largest cotton producing countries are China and India, followed by the United States of America and Brazil.

  • Around 80 percent of cotton is used in apparel, 15 percent in home furnishings and the remaining 5 percent mostly accounts for non-woven applications, such as filters and padding.

  • Many countries implement policies and programmes to support the cotton sector, including direct support paid to producers, border protection, crop insurance subsidies and price support mechanisms.

  • The cost pressure on manufacturers throughout the apparel value chain is leading to consolidation in textile and apparel production among countries and companies.

  • World Cotton Day (WCD) is celebrated on the 7th of October and it represents an opportunity to promote cotton, share knowledge and showcase cotton-related activities and products.