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Cotton remains one of the most versatile crops grown by humanity, noted for its appearance, comfort and the many useful products it provides.

  • From the seed: flour and feed, refined oil (salad and cooking), margarine, soap and cosmetics, writing materials, rayon industrial fabrics, yarns, plastics, lamp and candle wicks, twine, rugs, mops, furniture upholstery etc.
  • From the lint: clothes, underwear, linings for canvas, tents, medical bandages, sheets, towels, curtains etc.

Because it is both a food and a fibre crop, a multisectoral, multipronged approach is what is needed to nurture this sector to reach its full potential (De Bruyn, 2021).

International business environment

Find international updates at:

Local business environment

Visit for the latest cotton market reports.

Historical cotton production areas include Limpopo Province (Springbok flats from Bela-Bela to Mokopane and Weipe), North West Province (Taung, Stella, Delareyville, Maratsane), KwaZulu-Natal (Makhathini Flats), Mpumalanga and Northern Cape (lower Orange River, Vaalharts, Douglas, Marydale and Prieska).

Farmers market their cotton in one of the following ways:

  • The seed cotton is sold by the grower to a ginner who gins the cotton and sells the cotton lint for his own account to spinners (and seed to processors), either directly or by making use of agents; or
  • The grower does not sell his seed cotton to the ginner but contracts the ginner to gin it on his behalf on payment of a ginning fee (some growers also own their own gins). The cotton lint and seed remain the property of the producer who then either markets it himself or contracts the gin or someone else to market the cotton lint (or seed) on his behalf.
  • The grower can gin their cotton in their own gins. They can then either market the cotton lint and seed themselves or get someone else to do it for them.

Five of the six ginners currently operating in South Africa are farmer-owned.

Challenges to our cotton producers are:

  • Competition from other summer crops.
  • Relative high input costs.
  • High cost of mechanization, i.e. picking costs.
  • Low cotton prices.

Growth in the sector slowed with the pandemic, but 2022 was a good year price wise. The area planted with cotton was expected to stabilise and return to “a modestly increasing trend over the decade to come (BFAP, 2022).

Hectares planted and yields for the Republic of South Africa (Swaziland excluded) are on the graph that follows:


Marketing YearHectares IrrigationHectares DrylandTotal HectaresYield IrrigationYield DrylandAverage Yield
2012/132 9563 8716 8273 9796872 112
2013/144 5662 8927 4584 7856873 198
2014/158 5926 63615 2284 9461 1293 283
2015/165 8432 5108 3534 5636353 383
2016/177 30110 54017 8414 4111 0482 424
2017/1819 27314 35533 6284 5959103 022
2018/1923 78117 19240 9734 7811 0193 193
2019/2011 54316 13227 6754 3931 2062 477
2020/2110 5115 80216 3134 5151 4682 552
2021/227 19510 82318 0184 3061 1062 384
2022/235 51412 15017 6644 2649031 952
2022/23 figures are a final estimate. Yield figures are Kg seed cotton per hectare


Further reference:

Small-scale farmer news

Find the latest news and information about small-scale cotton farmer development at

Two of the main objectives of the National Cotton Strategy Plan, developed by Cotton SA and other role players, are to broaden participation enabling small producers to continue increasing their share of the South African crop as well as to raise productivity by training of smallholder cotton growers. Cotton SA’s contribution in achieving this objective is amongst others by way of The Small Scale Cotton Farmers’ Forum (a standing committee of Cotton SA). The main function of the Forum is to co-ordinate and monitor progress with regard to the set objectives and to provide an environment where positive interaction between role-players could lead to increased market access for the small cotton farmer.

Cotton SA is an AgriSETA accredited training institution and its small-scale farmer training programme remains its core transformation initiative. The training of small-scale farmers takes place in collaboration with local government and the agricultural colleges in the small-scale farmer cotton production regions.

This formal skills development program (which involves a certain number of unit standards at NQF level 1) is organised in four 5 day modules, each of which are synchronised with the normal production cycle of the crop and presented over a 12 month period. The subjects covered in the 4 modules are:

  • introduction, soil preparation and planting
  • plant protection, pests, diseases and weeds
  • pre-harvest crop preparation, harvesting and grading
  • financial management

The courses are theoretical as well as practical, the latter making up about 60% of course content. Experts in each field are drawn from various cotton role players to impart their expertise to the groups in training.

Cotton SA also has a mentorship programme for small-scale cotton farmers in view of the need for a support system for farmers already trained in cotton production. This initiative is aimed to identify and guide mentors in the different small-holder farmer cotton production regions, who in turn impart their knowledge and practical skills to other small-holder farmers, in order to enable the latter to produce cotton in a sustainable and profitable manner.

National strategy and government contact

Cotton production absorbs labour which appeals to the country’s job creation strategies. There is also a strong emphasis on farmer development, making it important that the industry is given the necessary help it requires to be competitive.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) supported the five-year plan and establishment of the Southern African Sustainable Textile and Apparel Cluster (SASTAC) in the last decade. SASTAC’s Sustainable Cotton Cluster (SCC), 2014-2019, made a significant impact on cotton’s fortunes in this country. The pandemic halted this progress, but the future is looking positive once more (see the “Local business environment” heading).

In addition to the dtic, other relevant government institutions are the DALRRD and the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC). See and respectively.

Role players

Note: Click to expand the headings below.  To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

Peek – “South Africa’s first digital portal dedicated to visually showcasing beautiful craft and design products made in South Africa”.
Cotton SA – Cotton SA is a cotton industry service company providing the following functions: (i) the rendering of information services; (ii) the stimulation of the production and the usage of cotton; (iii) the co-ordination of research; (iv) the establishment of quality standards and norms as well as training in this regard.
SA Cotton Ginners Association (SACGA) – The representative body of cotton ginners. Find information about SACGA on the Cotton SA website.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Fiber Processing and Development Facility (FPDF) – The CSIR has previously done work with flax, hemp, wool, pineapple skins and other fibres.
ARC-Industrial Crops (ARC-IC) – The institute is responsible for all fundamental and applied research of interest to the fibre crop industries, such as cotton, sisal, hemp, flax and alternative fibre crops (including indigenous ones) in all the production areas of South Africa. Training courses for the production on flax, cotton, hemp and sisal are compiled according to requests.
Cape Clothing and Textile Cluster – A “not-for-profit initiative jointly established by government and industry to boost the competitiveness of the clothing, textile, footwear and leather (CTFL) manufacturing industry in the Western Cape”.
Craft and Design Institute (CDI) – Business-, product-, market- and design support

Further reference:


  • Cotton SA also acts as industry forum and facilitator for the development of the small cotton grower sector. Cotton SA is also the administrator of statutory measures (compulsory submission of monthly returns by processors and imposition of a levy on cotton lint produced to finance its functions). Cotton SA is not in any way involved in the marketing of cotton or cotton products, which are traded on free market principles.

Training and research

  • Training DVDs on hand picking and machine picking of cotton are available from Cotton SA.
  • The Research and Technology Committee of Cotton SA meet on a regular basis with one of the main aims to evaluate research projects identified and prioritised by role players. Research results are obtainable from the Institute and also published on a regular basis in the Cotton SA Katoen magazine.

Websites and publications

Find the “Technical information” option at

Environmental Needs Of The Cotton Plant by Dr CG Theron. This and other related articles may be downloaded from the Cotton SA website.

Cotton SA – Educational Brochure, with needs of scholars and students in mind, is obtainable free of charge. The brochure contains among others, sections on the history, production, processing and uses of cotton.

The following may be ordered electronically from the Cotton SA website –

  • The Cotton SA Katoen magazine. This is published bi-annually. Its main focus is on the producer but carries information on the whole industry. Cotton SA distributes the magazine free to subscribers in South Africa.
  • Management Guide. This comprehensive bilingual guide was compiled by the ARC-Institute for Industrial Crops and is aimed at the commercial farmer with the aim to broaden his/her knowledge. The publication covers the full spectrum of cotton farming and contains chapters on cultivation guidelines, insect and disease control and the harvesting of cotton.
  • Cotton Guide For The Small-Holder Farmer
  • Company Brochure
  • Core Statistics

Available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) is the booklet Agro-processing of Textile Crops (Cotton, flax, hemp, sisal). Contact 012 842 4017 or visit

Find the latest Cotton Market Value Chain Profile on the Department of Agriculture Land Reform & Rural Development website,, on the Directorate Marketing pages. The “Cotton production guidelines” and a cotton brochure are also available here (under “Resource centre”).

The Textile Find the database of members and role players e.g. dyers and finishers, knitted fabrics, yarns etc.

The SADC Secretariat and German Development Corporation‘s Profiling of the Regional Agro-Processing Value Chains in the SADC Region (March 2019) includes a look at cotton ginning and other possibilities.


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