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Cotton producers seek to revive regional textiles industry

Cotton. FAO
GM cotton dominates the seed market
The main cotton producing states of West Africa have drawn up a US $360 million investment plan to revive their textile industries. The aim is to process 25 percent of the region's raw cotton into locally produced thread and cloth by 2010. At present, only five percent of West Africa's raw cotton is transformed into manufactured products within the region. The ambitious target was set on Thursday at a meeting of trade and agriculture ministers from 12 cotton producing countries in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. It was organised by 11 countries that use the CFA franc as their common currency and was also attended by Guinea. The cotton producers decided to revive the region's textile industry because their raw cotton exports currently command rock bottom prices on the world market. This is mainly because the United States pays heavy subsidies to its own cotton farmers. International cotton prices have been depressed to the point where many African producers can barely cover their costs. "It is an ambitious objective to process 25 percent of the cotton," said Victor Ndiaye, who led a study into how revenues from cotton could be maximised in the region. "It means achieving five times as much in seven years as we have been able to do until now." Transforming raw cotton into thread and cloth would add value to the final product and create badly needed jobs in West Africa. Ndiaye said the industrialisation programme would focus on the production of cotton thread, which West Africa could produce more cheaply that the United States, Europe or India. The region's garment manufacturers have suffered stiff competition in recent years from smuggled goods and legal imports of cheap second hand clothing. Many factories have been forced to close. Ndiaye said the proposed investment in new textile factories would cost 200 billion CFA (US $360 million) and create about 50,000 jobs. The two-day meeting in Ouagadougou also revived the idea of setting up a textiles college at Segou in Mali to train personnel for the entire region. Burkinabe Trade Minister Benoit Ouattara said afterwards: "The meeting has given us hope by providing us with the opportunity to confirm the unity that is needed for the survival of thousands of producers and millions of others who depend direcly on cotton." Cotton is the main cash crop for hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers in West Africa and provides between a third and half of the export earnings of several countries in the region. In April, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Chad submitted a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation about the US cotton subsidies, demanding compensation. West African producers reckon they have been losing US $150 million a year in export earnings since 1997 as a result of Washington's financial support for its own cotton farmers. The countries which took part in the Ougadougou meeting were Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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