Bangladesh, the Largest Cotton Importer of the World

Srabani Mallick

image002This year Bangladesh will import 9 million bales of cotton for the first time, surpassing all previous records. Last year in 2021, Bangladesh imported 8.5 million bales of cotton at the cost of over 3.3 billion. Mohammad Ali Khokon, President of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), said the country’s cotton imports would increase as exports of garments made by Bangladesh increased significantly with the gradual reopening of the global economy. Bangladesh produces simply 0.1 million bales of cotton locally and the country nowadays imports more than 6 million bales yearly. Tim Martin of Austrades, New Delhi-based trade commissioner and Bangladesh country manager said the number would double in the next four years and Bangladesh should overcome China as the world’s largest cotton importer.

Volume of cotton imports in Bangladesh from 2011 to 2021(in million bales)


These statistics show the volume of cotton imported in Bangladesh from 2011 to 2021. The number of cottons imported in Bangladesh has increased every year due to the increasing demand for cotton. In 2019 and 2020, Bangladesh imported 7 million bales of cotton respectively. In 2021, the volume of cotton imports has increased to 7.5 million bales of cotton and this year the amount has crossed 9 million bales of cotton.

Top Raw Cotton Importing Countries in 2020-2021

Country Import in million bales
China 12.85
Bangladesh 7.5
Vietnam 7.29
Turkey 5.05
Pakistan 5.3
Indonesia 2.25
Mexico 0.87
India 0.79
Malaysia 0.69
Egypt 0.6

In 2020-21, China imported 12.85 million bales of cotton as the world’s largest cotton importer. On the other hand, Bangladesh is the second-largest cotton importer in the world, importing 7.5 million bales of cotton. China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Turkey, Pakistan, is leading in the top 5 cotton importing country in FY 2020-21. Let’s see how many million bales of cotton have been imported from these countries in the last few years through a graphical representation!

Country 2017-18 (million bales of cotton) 2018-19 (million bales of cotton) 2019-20 (million bales of cotton) 2020-21 (million bales of cotton)
China 5.74 8.26 10.68 12.85
Bangladesh 7.4 7.9 7.5 7.5
Vietnam 6.6 6.9 6.6 7.29
Turkey 4.1 3.9 4.67 5.05
Pakistan 3.4 2.85 3.98 5.3



Characteristics and types of different country’s cotton

Gossypium Hirsutum: Gossypium Hirsutum is commonly called upland cotton. Upland cotton is usually a soft, strong and low maintenance fiber that is primarily used to make denim jeans and flannel clothing. 90% of the cotton production in the world is mainly made from Gossypium Hirsutum.  Cotton of these spaces is made of relatively small fibers. Due to the quality and purity of natural fiber, it is widely used in a variety of consumer products. About 95 percent of the cotton produced in U.S soil is made upland. It is regional to Mexico, Central America, Northern South America, The West Indies and possibly tropical Florida.

image007Gossypium Barbadense: Gossypium Barbadense makes up only 8% of the worlds cotton production and is the second most produced type of cotton. It is an extra long staple cotton commonly known as Pima. Pima cotton’s strength, flexibility, durability and absorbency make it the most popular for clothing, towels and sheets. It also prevents wrinkling or fading. Pima cotton is regional to tropical South America. Its quality is equivalent to Egyptian cotton. Egyptian cotton is durable, soft and produces some of the highest quality fabric. This cotton is usually imported and counts from 200 to 800 threads per square inch. The main thing that helps in counting this larger thread is the long fiber of Egyptian cotton which is 32 mm to 38 mm in length. Because of this long fiber the fabric has a satin feel, longevity and breathability that helps keep the body cool in hot summer weather.

cottonGossypium Arboreum: Gossypium Arboreum which accounts for low than two percent of the world’s cotton production is commonly called Tree cotton. Tree cotton is especially useful in dry lands; it also grows well in Queensland. However, Tree cotton is stiffer, more drought tolerant and pest resistant than the new annual variety. It’s a bush 2m high and 2m wide and the fibers are coarser and shorter than annual fiber. This variant is local to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other tropical and subtropical regions of the old world.

Gossypium Herbaceum: Gossypium herbaceum is known as Levant cotton. This variant is regional to Southern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Containing little than two percent of the global market, Levant cotton is basically spun into yarns to create a diversity of fabrics. In addition to the use of cloth, the developing countries use this variant for medical purposes including in the field of medicine.

Market analysis and the future of cotton market

Cotton is one of the most important natural fibers in the world, More than 25 million tons of cotton is produced every year. Global cotton production is projected to register a CAGR of 4.1% during the prognosis period (2022-27). Cotton prices have recently reached a decade high in the international market. The Prolonged effects of the drought in various parts of the central United States have reduced production, which has had a negative impact on global production. Despite the demand, the importing countries are not able to ensure supply. This is the main reason for such a skywards trend in market prices (Source: News Business recorder). The United States is the third largest producer of cotton in the world. About 40% of the country’s total production comes from the northwestern state of Texas. But at the beginning of January this year, the rainfall rate in the region dropped to an unprecedented level. The demand for cotton in the market is high due to the corona epidemic. But there is no supply in that proportion. Ginning mills have closed due to the cancellation of orders from many Western clothing brands as a result of global sanctions. It has also affected cotton plantations and textile plantations for Bangladesh and India. The global cotton trade has slowed down due to economic and logistic reasons. This has affected every link in the global supply change. China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India are the largest cotton consumers in the world, accounting for more than 65.0% of global consumption. For many years, China and India were the main markets for cotton use. However, in recent years, the use of cotton in Uzbekistan and Vietnam has increased dramatically.