Cotton, being the major crop of Fri-El Ethiopia farming and processing plc, has been cultivated throughout the last decade at different levels. There is progress in productivity, as well as production and area coverage of cotton cultivation, which has changed each year with market demand and cropping pattern-related reasons. The largest area coverage of cotton production was in the 2019/20 season reaching 1,450 hectares. We have planned to make it more than 4,000 hectares within the coming two years from the total of 8,000 hectares of cultivable land.
Cotton also known as “White Gold” is the most widely produced natural fiber on the planet. Cotton is a natural fiber that comes from plants. Cotton is mostly composed of cellulose which makes it a soft and fluffy material.
The cultivation and processing of this natural resource are used to convert it into a textile which is known for its versatility, performance, and natural comfort. Cotton is commonly used in many industries and accounts for half of the fiber worn in the world.
Cultivation of the cotton plant
The various species of cotton grown as agricultural crops are native to most subtropical parts of the world and were domesticated independently multiple times. Cotton can be found as perennial treelike plants in tropical climates but is normally cultivated as a shrubby annual in temperate climates. Whereas it grows up to 6 meters (20 feet) high in the tropics, it characteristically ranges from 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6.5 feet) in height under cultivation. Within 80–100 days after planting, the plant develops white blossoms, which change to a reddish color. The fertilized blossoms fall off after a few days and are replaced by small green triangular pods, called bolls, that mature after a period of 55–80 days.
During this period the seeds and their attached hairs develop within the boll, which increases considerably in size. The seed hair, or cotton fiber, reaching a maximum length of about 6 cm (2.5 inches) in long-fiber varieties, is known as lint. Linters, fibers considerably shorter than the seed hair and more closely connected to the seed, come from a second growth beginning about 10 days after the first seed hairs begin to develop. When ripe, the boll bursts into a white, fluffy ball containing three to five cells, each having 7 to 10 seeds embedded in a mass of seed fibers. Two-thirds of the weight of the seed cotton (i.e., the seed with the adhering seed hair) consists of the seeds. The fibers are composed of about 87 to 90 percent cellulose (a carbohydrate plant substance), 5 to 8 percent water, and 4 to 6 percent natural impurities.
Although cotton can be grown between latitudes 30° N and 30° S, yield and fiber quality are considerably influenced by climatic conditions, and the best qualities are obtained with high moisture levels resulting from rainfall or irrigation during the growing season and a dry, warm season during the picking period.
Cotton production has been a central component of rural and urban Ethiopian life for centuries.
The traditional clothing has always been made of locally cultivated cotton spun on drop spindles
by women, and woven on hand looms by men. Most rural women and men living in areas where cotton
grows have the skills to process the fiber themselves.
Cotton is grown in lower elevation areas of Ethiopia on small farms and large alike – private and
government owed. In recent years, with the dramatic increase of textile industrialization, the demand for
cotton has significantly increased. Improving and increasing cotton production is a major Government
focus, and the sector is increasingly an area of foreign investment.
In addition to home production, farmers bring their crops to centralized cotton ginning plants where the
cotton is processed.
To date, there is no certified Fair Trade or organic cotton in Ethiopia. However,
there are a few initiatives in process to facilitate its production.