print logo

The News International: Crackdown on fake cotton helps revive Egypt crop

The sale of falsely labelled Egyptian cotton have increased demand for the real thing, injecting life into a dying historic industry.
14.02.17 | Interesting article at The News International

gypt´s most famous export, the silky soft cotton prized by makers of luxury bedding and clothing, has become so scarce as production has fallen that most supplies sold under its brand name last year were fake.

But a surge in local cotton prices ahead of next month´s planting season, and a crackdown on ersatz Egyptian cotton worldwide, are reviving interest in cultivating the long-neglected crop.

Farmers, spinners, and exporters say the weakness of the Egyptian pound following its flotation in November and a scandal over the alleged sale of falsely labelled Egyptian cotton have increased demand for the real thing, injecting life into a historic industry on its deathbed.

Egyptian cotton output will be "between double and triple this year," said Ahmed Elbosaty, chairman of Modern Nile Cotton, a major cotton trading company.

Last year, agricultural production of Egypt´s high quality long-staple cotton hit a more than 100-year low.

Production has slumped since 2011, a year of political upheaval that coincided with looser regulations that degraded the quality of local cotton, said Nabil al-Santaricy, head of the Alexandria Cotton Exporters Association.

Faced with big losses, farmers burned their cotton crops, with many switching to rice. In a bid to save its historic crop, Egypt in 2016 banned all but the highest quality cotton seed, dramatically shrinking the area under cultivation but restoring quality.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that in 2016-17 Egypt will produce 160,000 bales, half the previous year´s crop and a fraction of the 1.4 million produced in 2004-05.SAVED BY SCANDALWith global stocks low, some foreign suppliers have mixed lower grade lint into yarns and fabrics, passing them off as Egyptian cotton, spinners and exporters said.

The Cotton Egypt Association, which provides an official logo to suppliers of 100 percent Egyptian cotton, estimates that about 90 percent of global supplies of Egyptian cotton last year were fake.

"When the manufacturer can write it´s 100 percent Egyptian cotton, and everyone else does the same, why would he buy the actual Egyptian cotton?" said association head Khaled Schuman.

The scandal hit the headlines last year when U.S. retail chain Target Corp accused Indian textile manufacturer Welspun India of using cheaper, non-Egyptian cotton in sheets and pillowcases.

Retailers began reviewing whether to stop selling Welspun products and demanded that those offering 100 percent Egyptian cotton should show proof. "This whole thing revived interest in Egyptian cotton and increased demand," Santaricy said.

Schuman said his association had received an "enormous number" of requests to use its logo, which guarantees quality, since the Welspun affair, with 20 companies signed up since December.