One of Egypt's most beloved exports is making a dramatic comeback after a hundred-year low in field acreage and years of falling sales abroad.
Egypt may be famous for its pyramids, but one lasting piece of its culture that has found its way into the homes of millions of people all over the world is a little humbler: its cotton. The country’s cotton fields may not be as grandiose as its ancient monuments, but the quality and luxury of Egyptian cotton have created global demand for the beloved plant. Exports have been in a slump for the past several years, but according to Reuters, a cotton exporting council reports that Egyptian cotton exports are up 19 percent from last year, standing at 38,000 tonnes.
Years of political uncertainty and regulatory change had degraded the quality of Egypt’s cotton production; in response, all but the finest cotton seeds were banned and the plant’s cultivation acreage was reduced by a large margin. After seeing cotton growth at a 100-year low, growers are now bringing the plant back and looking to fill over half a million acres with the plant over the next few years, a sharp increase from the 130,000 acres of cotton fields of the past few years.
Local cotton exporters are expecting to double their exports from the paltry harvests of recent seasons. The reason for this boost in demand? A scandal in 2016 over the alleged distribution of falsely labeled Egyptian cotton created greater international scrutiny over labels and prompted increased production of cotton labeled as 100 percent Egyptian. In late July, Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry signed a deal in cooperation with United Nations Industrial Development Organization for a $1.72 million project to improve the quality and performance of local cotton producers and boost the cotton sector as a whole. The country is now looking at higher-quality long- and extra-long staple cotton and a brighter future for its timeless cotton exporting industry.