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

2.2 Stage 2: textile and spinning

In this second stage of textile production the cotton bales are used to create a cotton yarn which is then woven into a fabric. As a means of identifying the countries most involved at this stage of the supply chain you will look at which countries import the most cotton. This will be measured by considering which countries import the most cotton using data on the top ten importers as a percentage of total world cotton imports.

Table 3 Top ten importers of cotton as a percentage of total world cotton imports in 2017 (measured in $bn)

China 17.3%
Bangladesh 10.7%
Vietnam 8.4%
Turkey 6.0%
Indonesia 4.3%
Hong Kong 3.0%
Italy 2.5%
South Korea 2.1%
Germany 2.0%
Mexico 2.0%
(Source: Workman, 2019b)

Activity 12

According to Table 3, which are the top cotton textile producers in the world?

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Answer

The data in Table 3 tells us that the three main importers of cotton are China, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Further down the list of importing countries you would find the United States 13th with 1.9% of world imports and the UK 34th with 0.6%.

This stage of the supply chain introduces some different key actors compared with our initial stage of cotton production. Bangladesh imports 10.7% of the world’s cotton imports. In terms of volume of cotton imported Bangladesh is the biggest importer of cotton, importing 1 655 thousand metric tons (Statista 2019). The large amount of cotton imported into Bangladesh reflects its extensive use of cotton as an input combined with its own relatively low cotton production. China is notable as an important cotton producer and importer of cotton. Vietnam is interestingly not on the list of top 10 cotton producing countries but are important exporters of cotton and key players as cotton importers.

Activity 13

Using Table 3 what percentage of the total global cotton imports do the 3 biggest importing countries account for?

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Answer

By value, the top 3 countries, China, Bangladesh and Vietnam, account for 36.4% of world cotton imports.

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