Dhaka, Monday, 18 January 2021

CmiA to raise African cotton market in Bangladesh

CmiA to raise African cotton market in Bangladesh

Apparel Report: Cotton made in Africa is a project initiative launched and managed by the Aid by Trade Foundation, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany. AbTF was founded in 2005 by Dr. Michael Otto, the Hamburg business entrepreneur and Chairman of Otto Group.

According to African Economic Outlook 2015, 60 percent of African people make their living by farming. Most of these farmers are involved in cotton cultivation. Sub-Saharan Africa is the fifth largest cotton exporter worldwide. Cotton is grown there by about 3.4 million smallholder farmers. A total of more than 20 million people in the region are directly or indirectly living from cotton. Cotton thus plays a key role in fighting poverty and makes a major contribution to food security in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

All of the cotton produced by them are going on in the world market. The CmiA is now in the process of raising the cotton market in Bangladesh, the world’s number one cotton importer.
Recently Mr. Christian Barthel, Director, Business Development, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) has given an interview with The Apparel News. The interview is presented here for our valued readers.
The Apparel News: Please tell us the story behind the creation of the initiative “Cotton made in Africa”, i.e. how, when and why it was established. What is the main aim of CmiA?
Christian Barthel: Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) was first founded by Dr. Michael Otto in 2005. The initiative is carried by the Aid by Trade Foundation and has set itself the goal to sustainably improve the living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most important cotton export regions on the world market and agriculture is mainly driven by smallholder farmers. Many people directly or indirectly depend on cotton, which renders it a key element in fighting poverty and a major contributor to food security in many countries.
However, African smallholder farmers have not been fully able to use this potential to their advantage, as they are faced with many challenges such as fluctuating world market prices, low productivity, and poor infrastructure. This is where Cotton made in Africa comes in. Our commitment is not based on donations, but on the principle of helping people help themselves through trade. In following the workings of a social business, CmiA establishes an international alliance of textile co.
The Apparel News: Bangladesh is the 2nd largest apparel exporting country in the world. It means a vast production volume of apparel as well as yarns and threads, which results in the demand of extensive amounts of cotton. But why is CmiA not so popular in Bangladesh? Do you have any plan to expand the market and to popularize CmiA cotton in Bangladesh promoting the CmiA brand?
Christian Barthel: Africa currently represents the 3rd biggest origin of imported cotton in Bangladesh, and African cotton is widely used. However, not all of the imported African cotton is marked with the special CmiA trademark, which makes it hard to recognize as high-quality African cotton. Nevertheless, Bangladeshi spinning mills are often aware of the excellent quality and the competitive prices of CmiA cotton. So, it is our aim to increase the awareness of CmiA and foster production of CmiA labelled products in Bangladesh by collaborating both with our existing brand partners and with new retailers and brands. We will definitely continue promoting CmiA in Bangladesh. For instance, we are currently planning a few ‘roundtable’ meetings with our partners and representatives of the industry to find a common approach to further establish CmiA on the market.
The Apparel News: How much cotton of CmiA is now being imported by Bangladeshi entrepreneurs?
Christian Barthel: In the first half of 2017, a total of 85,000 tons of CmiA cotton has been traded to markets worldwide, to be processed by spinning mills and vertical producers. The majority of this volume was imported into Bangladesh, so one can see how important this market is for us.
The Apparel News: At present time, how many countries are consuming your products and which are they?
Christian Barthel: Cotton made in Africa is sustainable cotton from Sub-Sahara Africa. It is processed in all major textile markets worldwide. Cotton made in Africa labelled textiles are sold internationally. Both production and retail depend on our retailer partners and their respective production and retail sites.
The Apparel News: Three years ago (in 2015), CmiA celebrated its 10th anniversary. What’s your achievement in a decade after starting the journey and what is your goal in next 10 years?
Christian Barthel: In its first decade, Cotton made in Africa has achieved a lot. The initiative has become the biggest standard for sustainable cotton production in Africa and currently reaches out to more than one million smallholder cotton farmers in a total of 9 different countries in Sub-Sahara Africa. Today, 36 companies and brands demand CmiA cotton and label their products with the CmiA trademark. In 2016, around 90 million textiles carried the CmiA seal. That is a remarkable success- but of course we want to go further. Over the next 10 years, CmiA wants to expand its purview, strengthen worldwide demand for its cotton and establish itself more thoroughly in the minds of consumers. We still see a lot of potential for CmiA’s growth in the future.
The Apparel News: What challenges are you facing to promote CmiA in different countries?
Christian Barthel: Surely the biggest challenge is to promote CmiA in different countries, as each market and each local industry has its own setting and respective conditions and circumstances. In Turkey for instance, we operate in a market that is used to processing machine-picked cotton.
Consequently, establishing the usage of hand-picked cotton – as it is the case with CmiA cotton – was not an easy task at the beginning. But over the years, we have been able to gain a large number of spinning mill partners that are now processing CmiA cotton in Turkey.
They have made good experiences with African cotton and we really appreciate these good partnerships. In countries like Pakistan, India and China, CmiA cotton is competing with the local cotton production. In Bangladesh on the other hand, we don’t have these problems, which makes it much easier for potential partners to start processing CmiA cotton.
The Apparel News: How much cotton is being produced every year under CmiA and how many people directly benefit from getting involved in CmiA, particularly in cotton cultivation?
Christian Barthel: In 2017, a total of 496,000mt lint cotton was produced by CmiA certified cotton producers. Cotton made in Africa cotton stands for cotton with added values as CmiA helps improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers and their families, reaching out to a total of more than 1 million farmers and their families who benefit from CmiA and its program.
The Apparel News: Would you dream that ‘Cotton made in Africa’ one day will change the fortune of Underprivileged Africans?
Christian Barthel: African smallholder farmers are remarkable persons as they have to face hard conditions and circumstances. Through Cotton made in Africa, they learn how to better overcome these challenges by implementing new and sustainable techniques, how to work and farm under better and healthier conditions and how to manage their farm more economically and thus how to live a better life. In farmer trainings, they learn how to plan their season’s cultivation and handle their savings, turning their family farms into small businesses. For the future, our goal is to extend our scope and reach more and more smallholder farmers and families throughout Africa.
The Apparel News: Finally, what’s your message to the present and future customers of Cotton made in Africa?
Christian Barthel: By choosing products with the Cotton made in Africa label, everyone can wear a smile: The more than 1 million African smallholder farmers who produce the cotton, the people who further process it in the supply chain, the environment that is protected through reduced carbon emissions, less water usage and exclusion of hazardous pesticides, and the consumer, who buys sustainable and fashionable pieces of clothing or home textiles with a great backstory. With Cotton made in Africa, everybody wins and can easily share a smile with others!
The Apparel News: For Bangladesh what service CmiA can provide? Who and where is the local contact point for factories if they need?
Christian Barthel: Bangladesh is one of the major importers of cotton industry. Most of the spinning mills buying African cotton from various sellers. Some time they find various issues. Such as; Low quality cotton, cotton sell issue, LC problem, etc. So CmiA took initiative to help cotton industry of Bangladesh. Still many of spinning mills aren’t aware of CmiA certification. CmiA will make an arrangement of workshop to existing certified spinning mills and others spinning mills for their CmiA certified program. Now CmiA use pull strategy for issuing certificate and increasing local activities; they established local representative to give the information about better cotton initiative program. For CmiA Registration, Renew, etc. the local office will help the spinning mills/ factories.
If the factories want to contact with CmiA, they can contact MR. MAHBUB KHAN, who is our local representative and through mail mahbub.khan@abt-foudation.net