"Cotton is so much more than just a product: it's a culture, a way of life and a tradition that finds its roots in the heart of human civilization," Qu said on the World Cotton Day celebrated at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
According to experts, it is now essential to manage trade policies and climate-related risks to support the 25 million farmers who grow cotton. "Cotton provides jobs and income for some of the people living in the poorest and most isolated rural areas in the world," clarifies Mr. Qu.
The celebration of World Cotton Day follows an initiative of the C-4 countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali - and is taking place at WTO headquarters in collaboration with FAO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, as well as other organizations.
"It is essential that the cotton sector meets the highest standards of sustainability at all stages of the value chain," said the head of FAO.
Key figures: 25 million tons for 50 billion dollars
Mr. Qu was speaking at a side event organized by FAO to discuss market trends and policy trends related to the cotton sector, whose annual turnover is close to $ 50 billion with an estimated production of 25 million tonnes in 75 countries.
International cotton trade is estimated at around $ 18 billion each year. Cotton is an important source of livelihood and income for many small-scale farmers and workers in developing countries.
In many regions, cotton is the only economic activity accessible to rural households and communities, and the sector benefits more than 100 million families worldwide. For example, income related to the export of cotton can finance 50% of food import bills in Mali. This figure is 22.5% for Chad. In Burkina Faso, these incomes also offset the cost of food imports.
The discussion focused on the best ways to grasp the opportunities offered by the increased demand for natural fibers in recent years as a result of a market trend towards more sustainability.
Despite this, the market share of natural fibers is decreasing due to a strong demand for synthetic fibers, and more particularly for polyester. In addition, there are exogenous risks due to climate change.
FAO has long provided technical and policy support to developing countries to boost their productivity and create more opportunities in the cotton value chain. There is a need to increase productivity and investment and to ensure that innovation and sustainable standards contribute to increased profits in the cotton sector.
China and India are the largest producers and Brazil is the second largest exporter after the United States - also benefited from South-South cooperation