A report on the results of ICAC Plenary Meeting 2013
On October 4, 2013 the ICAC International Cotton Advisory Committee’s 72nd Plenary Meeting ended in Cartagena, Colombia. We have published already some news but would like to give you a summary of the results
ICAC has been founded in 1939. The latest Plenary Meeting was attended by 395 representatives from 35 governments and 10 international organisations.
We reported before on consumption and cotton trade, issues of sustainability, as well as on expected price levels. We would like to emphasise now on other subjects.
We have already strived inter-fibre competition, but here is a breakdown of further results: Governments should avoid intervention in cotton markets, since the damaging consequences might increase price volatility, endanger contract sanctity, disrupt trade and cause a loss of market share to fibres with more stable prices. Governments should heighten transparency in cotton polices, and improve systems of providing statistics, uncertainty regarding government policies and inadequate statistics contribute to uncertainty and lead to poor decision making processes. Further, governments should ensure that industry has access to tools of price risk management. Governments should introduce and/or enforce fibre content labelling requirements to enable consumers to exercise preference in favour of cotton.
The cotton industry itself should communicate the positive attributes of cotton for the environment, the economy, and human health and wellbeing. The cotton industry and governments should strengthen their efforts to improve efficiency by adopting standardised instrument testing, developing a standardised bale identification system, and adopt the FAO model phytosanitary certificate.
The ICAC Secretariat should take a more proactive role in answering public criticism of the cotton industry.
On land tenure versus agricultural productivity
ICAC has been informed that in many countries more than half of the land used to grow cotton is rented or held in common at the village level, with negative implications for investments in irrigation, soil conservation practices, and other infrastructure.
Governments can facilitate investments in land productivity by insuring that farmers have clear, enforceable titles or leases to land, by encouraging long term leases in place of annual leases, and by ensuring that producers have access to training, financing and inputs to enable them to be productive. Governments are further encouraged to ensure that systems of land tenure are developed via an inclusive process of dialogue and consensus with all segments of society.
On encouraging young entrepreneurs in cotton
The average age of cotton farmers in many countries is rising. It is to be noted that young people often see greater economic opportunities in urban professions and that in many countri8es public services are better in urban than in rural areas. Furthermore, farming is often held in low esteem. Governments discussed how career opportunities in the cotton value chain could be enhanced through access to credit, mentorships, increased education, expanded mechanisation, by encouraging the formation of cooperatives and with policies to provide greater security of land ownership.
On the question of gender
Experts stated that women provide most of the labour in smallholder cotton production, including planting, weeding, spraying, and harvesting. However, women often lack access to inputs, credit, extension of services and markets, and that work-life balance issues often place greater stress on women than men in jobs within the value chain. Governments were encouraged to ensure that women have access to credit and inputs, are eligible for land ownership, and are supported with gender-sensitive technical support. Established cultural expectations that limit the roles of women in agriculture can be overcome through public education campaigns. The ICAC Secretariat was requested to establish a “Women in Cotton Network” to exchange information and raise awareness of gender issues.
On the completion of the Doha Round
ICAC members affirmed that the issues discussed in the WTO World Trade Organisation Doha Round remain important and must be resolved. The ICAC Committee continues to support the WTO for its role in promoting openness and facilitating the rule of law in trade matters, for the Dispute Settlement Understanding and for its contributions to economic development, and continues to urge governments to honour their WTO commitments regarding subsidies in sectors that compete with cotton. ICAC Members reiterated that cotton is an integral part of the DDA Doha Development Agenda and that there can be no successful conclusion of the DDA without an agreement on cotton. Many members supported the long outstanding request of the C4 for an end to direct subsidies that distort production and trade in cotton.
On cotton identity programmes
The Committee received a report from its Task Force on C Cotton Identity Programmes, set up to analyse and compare various cotton based initiatives. The Task Force reported that production of cotton based initiatives. The Task Force reported that production of cotton under organic, Fairtrade, BCI and Cotton made in Africa amounted to nearly 4 % of world cotton production in 2011/12. The ICAC Committee expressed an interest in staying informed on developments as regards these and other identity programmes. The ICAC Secretariat was instructed to work with the Task Force to ensure efficient collection of information about production, marketing and pricing under each programme, and to determine the future role of the Task Force. The full report is available on the ICAC Secretariat’s website.
On promoting efficiency in cotton trade
The ICAC Committee’s PSAP Private Sector Advisory Panel informed governments that universal adoption of the model phytosanitary certificate that has been prepared by FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN United Nations, harmonisation of Electronic Bills of Lading, and implementation of a common system of bale identification would increase efficiencies in world cotton trade.
Table 1 Supply and Distribution of Cotton
On trade disruptions versus profitability
The PSAP reported that contract enforcement underpins profitability and urged governments to avoid trade distorting measures. Disruptions to cotton marketing exacerbate problems of contract defaults, create unfair completion, and have negative long term impacts on the cotton value chain worldwide as spinners respond to such disruptions by reducing cotton use in favour of other fibres.
On other aspects
The government of Argentina informed on a programme called PROCALGODON (Pro cotton), it is an effort to ensure that the Argentine cotton industry is implementing recommendations from ICAC and the PRIVATE Sector Advisory Panel. The programme works to improve transparency and bale traceability, improve cotton quality and eliminate contamination, improve farmer incomes through optimal input use, and implement standardised instrument testing of cotton.
The EU has expressed an interest in joining ICAC.
There was also a report of the ICAC Committee on cotton production research, highlighting the overcoming no growth in yields, the planting seed nomenclature, that ICRA, the International Cotton Researchers Association ICRA) has been incorporated, an Executive Committee has been constituted, bylaws have been formed and a website has been developed.
The Round Table for Biotechnology in Cotton presented its final report and observed that technology fees associated with biotechnology and the need for bio-safety protocols are hindering the spread of biotechnology. The existence of specific constraints to cotton production, including the Cotton Leaf Curl virus in Pakistan and the boll weevil in South America, limit the economic value of varieties with biotech traits in regions where such deceases or pests are dominant. Development of resistance by insects to Bt to0xins and weeds to the herbicide glysophate is of concern to all biotech cotton producing countries. Round Table members urged technology developers to ensure that all regulatory approval processes are completed in a timely manner in consuming markets.
The 2014 Technical Seminar will highlight “Enhancing the Mechanism of Input Interaction in Cotton Production”, a breakout session on the topic of “International Exchange of Cotton Germplasm” is considered. The 73rd ICAC Plenary Meeting will be from November 2 – 7, in Thessaloniki, Greece.
ICAC government members are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, France, Germany Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, United States, Uzbekistan, Zambia, Zimbabwe.