International trade of cotton

The largest producers of cotton, currently (2017), are India and China, with annual production of about 18.53 million tonnes and 17.14 million tonnes, respectively; most of this production is consumed by their respective textile industries. The largest exporters of raw cotton are the United States, with sales of $4.9 billion, and Africa, with sales of $2.1 billion. The total international trade is estimated to be $12 billion. Africa's share of the cotton trade has doubled since 1980. Neither area has a significant domestic textile industry, textile manufacturing having moved to developing nations in Eastern and South Asia such as India and China. In Africa, cotton is grown by numerous small holders. Dunavant Enterprises, based in Memphis, Tennessee, is the leading cotton broker in Africa, with hundreds of purchasing agents. It operates cotton gins in Uganda, Mozambique, and Zambia. In Zambia, it often offers loans for seed and expenses to the 180,000 small farmers who grow cotton for it, as well as advice on farming methods. Cargill also purchases cotton in Africa for export.
The 25,000 cotton growers in the United States are heavily subsidized at the rate of $2 billion per year although China now provides the highest overall level of cotton sector support. The future of these subsidies is uncertain and has led to anticipatory expansion of cotton brokers' operations in Africa. Dunavant expanded in Africa by buying out local operations. This is only possible in former British colonies and Mozambique; former French colonies continue to maintain tight monopolies, inherited from their former colonialist masters, on cotton purchases at low fixed prices.
While Brazil was fighting the US through the WTO's Dispute Settlement Mechanism against a heavily subsidized cotton industry, a group of four least-developed African countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali also known as "Cotton-4" have been the leading protagonist for the reduction of US cotton subsidies through negotiations. The four introduced a "Sectoral Initiative in Favour of Cotton", presented by Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore during the Trade Negotiations Committee on 10 June 2003.
In addition to concerns over subsidies, the cotton industries of some countries are criticized for employing child labor and damaging workers' health by exposure to pesticides used in production. The Environmental Justice Foundation has campaigned against the prevalent use of forced child and adult labor in cotton production in Uzbekistan, the world's third largest cotton exporter. The international production and trade situation has led to "fair trade" cotton clothing and footwear, joining a rapidly growing market for organic clothing, fair fashion or "ethical fashion". The fair trade system was initiated in 2005 with producers from Cameroon, Mali and Senegal.
Egypt has a unique climatic temperature that the soil and the temperature provide an exceptional environment for cotton to grow rapidly.