Sourcing Cotton

Basic Information for Developing or Adjusting Sourcing Strategies


The United States imports textiles from more than 80 countries. Brands, retailers, and companies importing apparel and other textiles have many choices when it comes to the geography of sourcing cotton and cotton products. As companies develop or adjust their sourcing strategies, it is helpful to understand vital information about cotton, trade-in cotton and production, and manufacturing practices that can affect sourcing and traceability.


Many companies are searching for information about cotton production in China and how this may be affected by current regulations by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.



Sourcing Cotton Webinars

Basic Information for Adjusting Sourcing Strategies


If business conditions, regulations, or compliance requirements have you rethinking your cotton sourcing strategy, this webinar takes you through basic information essential to evaluating your cotton sourcing plan.


Download PDF: Sourcing Cotton: Basic Information for Adjusting Sourcing Strategies



Webinar originally played 2/10/21.


Understanding Chinese Cotton & U.S. Import Regulations


Learn how cotton flows through each stage of China’s supply chain and how a leading trade association for U.S. importers is helping companies assess the situation.


Download PDF: Sourcing Cotton: Understanding Chinese Cotton & U.S. Import Regulations




Webinar originally played 3/9/21.


On this page, you will find the following information to help you with sourcing cotton products:



If you have specific questions about this topic that are not addressed below, contact us.



How and where is cotton grown?


Cotton is a global agricultural commodity, produced and traded worldwide.



World Maps: Production & Mill Consumption


Cotton mill use or consumption refers to fiber spun into yarn or used in manufacturing for products such as nonwovens.


This video briefly outlines where cotton is grown and used in manufacturing around the world.


Download PDF: Cotton Production & Consumption

Video does not contain audio.


Understanding Cotton Production Systems: Genetically Modified, Conventional, & Organic

Get to know the distinction between genetically modified, organic, and conventional cotton in the context of sustainability conversations.


Download PDF: Comparing Conventional & Organic Cotton Production



Cotton Fiber Development & Maturation


All cotton products begin as a plant. Explore a summary of the growth and development of a cotton plant, from seed germination to maturation.



Cotton Fiber Harvesting & Ginning


Before cotton fiber heads to the mill, it first has to be harvested from the field and go through the ginning process. Our Cotton Fiber Harvesting & Ginning page outlines the full method with the support of diagrams and images from the process.



Where is cotton traded?



Cotton Exports

The top four exporters by origin of raw cotton account for 80% of global shipments of raw cotton.



Cotton Imports

The top five importers of raw cotton account for about 80% of globally traded cotton.


Source: USDA: Cotton World Markets and Trade; for 2020/21 crop year (August 1, 2020, through July 31, 2021)




Flow of Cotton in China


China is the world’s:


With this in mind, this video outlines the flow of cotton through China, from raw fiber to finished goods.


Download PDF: Imports, Exports, & Flow Out of China

Video does not contain audio.



Flow of Cotton Out of China


In this video, Cotton Incorporated’s Senior Economist, Jon Devine, discusses essential information related to sourcing cotton from China and extends his insights and analysis into the potential risk levels of using cotton from the Asian region and Western Hemisphere.


Download PDF: China & the Global Cotton Supply Chain



Why are fiber properties so important to understand when making sourcing decisions?


Because cotton is a natural material, it is important for yarn manufacturers to manage variation in fiber properties to ensure the production of consistent, high-quality yarns. For sourcing, this means that yarn manufacturing in a company’s supply chain should always have the flexibility to source appropriate qualities of cotton. Yarn manufacturers do not just buy tons or pounds of cotton — they buy the right fiber qualities of cotton to make the best products for their customers.


For further information about the important fiber qualities for cotton, review our e-book, Classification of Cotton.



Supply Chain Documentation Management: Independent Software Providers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recommends that importers of cotton products assemble appropriate documentation that can assist with establishing a supply chain of custody record for all tier suppliers. To assist your company, Cotton Incorporated has compiled this list of potential information management software suppliers with relevant products/services.



This list is not exhaustive and there may be additional suppliers with appropriate capabilities. Cotton Incorporated cannot guarantee that each company has the ability or willingness to deliver a particular product or service. Although we make every attempt to keep this list up to date, there may be cases where a company’s capabilities or status may have changed.
Cotton Incorporated is providing this list as a courtesy but makes no warranty or representation, either expressed or implied, with respect to the suppliers contained herein. Likewise, no statement contained herein shall be construed as a recommendation to use a specific supplier and Cotton Incorporated assumes no responsibility for any negligence on the part of any supplier included in this list.










What should you consider when evaluating traceability technologies?


Cotton Incorporated works with companies and technology providers to evaluate and promote solutions that are beneficial to manufacturing with and sourcing cotton. While information about technologies and products is not always publicly available, Cotton Incorporated encourages thoughtful consideration of technologies and performance claims. The information in Considerations When Evaluating Traceability Technologies is intended to serve as guidance for thinking about traceability technologies, including:


  • Traceability technology fundamentals
  • Traceability technology considerations for cotton
  • Evaluation recommendations
    • Questions to consider regardless of the technology approach
    • Questions to consider specific to inherent technology methods
    • Questions to consider specific to additive technology methods


What additional resources might help with determining a sourcing strategy?


Sourcing decisions are complex and often involve many different factors. Knowledge of cotton production, trade, and fiber properties can help companies understand important basic information that can be combined with other factors such as import regulations, manufacturing prices, and companies’ own priorities and policies. For additional information, explore these resources.


Cotton Sustainability Basics

More sustainable cotton production means using our natural resources — water, land, and energy — more efficiently. Learn about the issues, progress, prospects, and goals for increased efficiency in these three key resource areas.


Monthly Economic Letter

Cotton Incorporated’s Monthly Economic Letter provides a unique analysis of the latest events affecting the world cotton market and world cotton prices. An up-to-date letter is available each month through


Tariff Engineering

Get to know the Harmonized Tariff System classification guidelines and learn techniques for modifying fiber content or garment construction that will result in duty savings without compromising design integrity.


Cotton LEADS℠ Program

The Cotton LEADS℠ program connects textile manufacturers, brands, and retailers with a variety of ways to advance sustainable cotton production. Learn how you can get involved and help advance sustainable cotton in your supply chain.


U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol™ (USCTP)

The USCTP program sets a new standard for more sustainably grown cotton by bringing quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurements to sustainable cotton production and driving continuous improvement in key sustainability metrics.


American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)

AAFA is the national trade association representing the apparel and footwear industry and works to identify member needs and facilitate engagement with policymakers around brand management, supply chain and manufacturing, and trade.


United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA)

USFIA represents brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers based in the United States and doing business globally, and works to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers that impede the fashion industry’s ability to trade freely.


FAQs: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) Withhold Release Order

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a list of frequently asked questions about the implementation of a withhold release order (WRO) on XUAR cotton and cotton products.



Helpful Terms


Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Department of Homeland Security’s mission is broad and diverse, covering challenges from counterterrorism to the United States’ maritime and border security, from the protection of national leaders to coordinating the federal government’s response to natural disasters.




Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United​ States.




U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.




Withhold Release Order (WRO)

A WRO is an order issued by the U.S. CBP. It detains goods imported into the U.S. at their point of entry until the importer submits proof the goods were not made using forced labor, or they re-export the goods to another country.


Source: Forced Labor: U.S. Government Continues Record-Breaking Enforcement Levels (


Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is one of five autonomous regions, along with 23 provinces and four municipalities, under the governance of China.


Source:, The World Fact Book


Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC)

The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), known as Bingtuan, is a quasi-military, governmental organization in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.


Source: Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (


Uyghur (Alt. Spellings: Uighur, Uygur)

Uyghurs are a primarily Turkic, primarily Muslim, ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia. The majority of this group lives in Xinjiang.




Forced Labor

Forced labor occurs when individuals are compelled to provide work or service through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.