One of Egypt’s most famous exports happens to be cotton. The history of using cotton as a fabric in the region is at least 7,000 years old. These ancient farms even grew cotton in ways that are similar to modern production methods. Much of the ancient cotton was likely grown in and around the Nile River, due to the harsh climate of the surrounding desert.
Cotton from Egypt was introduced to Europe around the 9th century. By the 15th century, when Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World, he found cotton grown in The Bahamas.
Since 1822, the Egypt cotton industry has produced commercial-grade products that have been shipped to the rest of the world. It competed heavily with American cotton until the Civil War, which eliminated much of the world’s cotton exports. That is why the world found the quality of Egyptian cotton for the first time and it has never looked back since.
In 1862, the industry was valued at $16 million. In 1864, the value had jumped to $56 million.
Fascinating Egypt Cotton Industry Statistics
#1. The area of cotton harvested in Egypt in 2016 totaled 120,000 hectares. This figure was up about 20% for the planned cotton area in the country from the year before. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#2. The average yield of cotton from a planted hectare in Egypt was 3.3 bales in 2016. About 200,000 bales of cotton are exported from Egypt every year. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#3. Egypt is also responsible for about 400,000 bales of lint cotton imports each year. In 2016, the country dropped their import levels by more than 10%. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#4. Total cotton consumption in Egypt dropped about 6% in 2016, reaching a total of 590,000 bales. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#5. About 25% of the total lint cotton bales that are imported by Egypt are sourced from growers in the United States. Since 2007, U.S. cotton exports to Egypt are usually from Pima cotton bales. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#6. In 2017, the Egyptian government reported that their indicative price for cotton was $22.72 over the price from the previous season. That meant the price of an extra-long staple cotton bale from the Nile Delta was valued at $743.42. There were increases in short and medium stable bales as well, averaging $688.35 per bale. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#7. Farmers in the Nile Delta were able to average a price of $881.70 per bale, which was 18.5% higher than the indicative price reported by the government. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#8. The Egypt cotton industry contributes 26.4% of the gross industrial product to the national economy each year. In total, it generates about $7 billion in value through its annual exports. (Textile Today)
#9. The number of bales created by the cotton industry in Egypt is still down sharply from the 2007 growing season. In 2007, 970,000 bales were harvested. In 2016, just 320,000 bales were harvested. (Textile Today)
#10. In 2015, 90% of the products that were taken to the market were not composed of Egyptian cotton. This has occurred even though companies are marketing products as if they contain cotton products when they do not. (RFI)
#11. A test of products labeled as Egyptian cotton found that some items were made of 100% polyester and contained no cotton in them whatsoever. (RFI)
#12. The cotton industry in Egypt may employ up to 1 million people in any given year. (Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation)
#13. In 2017, cotton exports to Egypt from the United States rose in value by 7%, reaching a total of $35.96 million. Total export levels increased by 10% over the year before, with an increased volume of more than 7,100 bales. (Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation)
#14. Greek cotton shipments to Egypt in 2017 reached over 200,000 bales, accounting for 39% of the total shipments received by the industry. (Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation)
#15. Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Benin all contribute more than 50,000 bales for import to the Egypt cotton industry each year. (Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation)
#16. In 2016, the cotton industry benefited from a monetary policy which stopped the Egyptian pound from being pegged to the U.S. dollar. Even though the EGP rate went from 8.88 per $1 to about 18 per $1, the devaluation caused demand levels to soar for the industry. Since then, the currency has only recovered by 3%, which has created a new surge for Egyptian cotton products. (Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation)
#17. India is the primary recipient of exports from the Egypt cotton industry, with over 70,000 bales purchased. India accounts for more than 50% of the lint cotton exports which originate from the industry. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#18. 94% of all Egypt cotton exports are bales of either the Giza 90 variety or the Giza 95 variety. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Egypt Cotton Industry Trends and Analysis
From 2010-2015, the Egyptian cotton industry experienced a series of declines that threatened the overall health of the industry. To protect it, the government of Egypt implemented a 190-step policy that went into effect for the 2017 planting season. These steps helped to promote local spinning industries, enforced bans on prohibited cotton varieties, and provided sees that could improve yields and the overall quality of the harvest.
Egypt imposes no import tariffs on cotton lint or on raw cotton. There is a 5% import tariff on combed or carded cotton.
Before the 2018 planting season, subsidies were also put into place to ensure that there would be a minimum return for growers. Growers would also sign contracts with the government pledging that they wouldn’t mix seeds or grow cotton varieties outside of eligible zones.
Consumption levels continue to rise for the Egypt cotton industry. More than 620,000 bales are expected to be required to meet domestic demand. Even with increased production rates, up to as much as 420,000 bales by the industry at the end of 2019, the downward pressure on pricing is expected to be minimal.