Exploring economics: the secret life of t-shirts
Exploring economics: the secret life of t-shirts

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Exploring economics: the secret life of t-shirts

2.1.3 Production and international trade data compared

This section has used data to consider which countries are important at the initial stages of the supply chain for a cotton t-shirt. The discussion has centred on two types of data: firstly, data which shows how much cotton each country is exporting and secondly, figures recording how much each country exports. What information have these data sets given us and how do the datasets compare?

Activity 11

Compare the top three countries in the supply of cotton as measured by production figures and those from the trade figures. Note down any similarities or differences that you notice.

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Answer

Whichever measure is used the top three countries are the same. The production and export figures both have the top three countries as India, China and the US. The only difference is in the ranking of these three top countries which changes as we switch from considering production data to trade data. The production figures rank India as producing the most cotton, followed by China and the US. When using the trade figures China exports the most cotton, USA second and India third.

Why might the production and trade figures vary?

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Answer

Countries that produce cotton do not necessarily export all their cotton to foreign countries; instead some of the cotton could be used domestically in later stages of the supply chain. It may be the case that India retain more of the cotton that they produce to supply their own factories rather than factories in other countries.

How does the measurement of data differ in the two datasets?

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Answer

The data in the production figures is in volume, measured in thousands of metric tons, that is, the quantity of cotton produced. The data on exports measures the monetary value of the cotton exports billions of dollars rather than the physical quantity of cotton. This difference in measurement may also account for the variation in the results in terms of the most important countries. The difference in results from the two datasets highlights an important point which is that care should always be taken when using data to consider closely how the data is measured and reported.

In the following sections trade data in the global markets for cotton and for cotton products is the one you will use.

DD126_2

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