Cotton: Key Facts and Fairtrade Cotton


Cotton Unfolded

The Scottish Fair Trade Forum’s informative and thought provoking online exhibition, Cotton Unfolded, examines key facts about historical and current problems with cotton production and explains how Fairtrade cotton offers a fair future.  

A series of cartoons, photographs and illustrations tell the story, and the accompanying interpretations are packed with information. A list of links to relevant websites allows further research into this subject.   For young learners and students there is a useful list of Further Educational Resources.

Download the exhibition's Cotton is King postcards here.


Some Key Facts about cotton

1. Cotton is known as a "dirty crop" because of the damaging pesticides used. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that thousands of cotton workers die every year because of pesticide poisoning.

Read about the EJF's investigations into child labour and deadly pesticides in cotton production here.

PAN UK has been working on a project since 2013 to help cotton farmers in the Ethiopian Rift Valley adopt alternative methods of pest control to replace highly hazardous synthetic pesticides.  Read about the project here.

2. Non-Fairtrade cotton schoolwear may have been produced by school-aged children for as little as 5p per hour, 80 hours a week.

Read about child labour in Uzbekistan's cotton industry here.

3. Cotton is often picked by children who have been trafficked and denied basic human rights.

4. Cotton prices are too low for many cotton farmers to keep their children in school, buy food or pay for healthcare.

5. The UK school clothing market is worth £1 billion per year, but very little of this money goes to the people who grow the cotton.


Why Fairtrade Cotton?

Fairtrade-certified cotton farmers get a guaranteed price for their crop. This price never falls below the amount it costs them to grow the cotton, which means they can plan to improve the lives of their families and develop their communities. Fairtrade cotton is produced without using the most harmful pesticides, child labour or forced labour. It gives workers in cotton fields fairer wages and working conditions.

For more information, download this hand-out on Fairtrade Cotton and how it addresses the problems with cotton.

The Fairtrade Foundation has a great deal of information on Fairtrade cotton. Click here to find out more.

For details on Organic Cotton visit the Have you cottoned on? website.