After a Cotton Council International (CCI) sponsored Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture Delegation’s visit to the U.S. from October 30 – November 5, 2022, coupled with indispensable efforts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) office in Dhaka, the Bangladesh government has agreed to relax its fumigation requirement on U.S. cotton imports to the country, which has been in place for nearly five decades. This shift eliminates a significant export barrier for U.S. cotton to Bangladesh, removing a major obstacle and granting access to one of the world’s most important destinations for raw cotton fiber.
Bangladesh ranks second when it comes to global cotton imports, importing around 8.2 million bales of cotton in MY 21/22, valued at close to $2.7 billion. The country’s textile mills and manufacturers strongly prefer U.S. cotton due to its high-quality properties however the fumigation requirements for U.S. cotton have led to extended lead times and additional costs. Bangladeshi mills have been paying over a million dollars annually to cover these unnecessary fumigation expenses, placing U.S. cotton at a competitive disadvantage, and suppressing U.S. cotton exports. In MY 21/22 U.S. cotton market share in Bangladesh was only 6.5%. In contrast, neighboring countries such as Pakistan and India, where U.S. cotton is not subject to fumigation, had significantly higher market shares of 35% and 60% respectively in the same time period.
Bangladesh’s Agricultural and Commerce Ministries’ decision to lift the fumigation requirements on U.S. cotton came after six Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture delegation members joined a CCI sponsored U.S. cotton tour. The tour included U.S. cotton meetings in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas, where they met with U.S. cotton industry representatives and visited cotton fields, gins, warehouses, and the USDA Agricultural Ginning Research Laboratory in Stoneville, MS. The delegation learned why U.S. cotton bales do not harbor live boll weevils, including a review of the U.S. cotton industry’s successful Boll Weevil Eradication Program and its modern harvesting and standardized ginning techniques. The information collected throughout the tour, combined with the ongoing efforts of FAS and CCI in Bangladesh, provided the assurance needed by the Bangladesh Agriculture and Commerce Ministry to finally eliminate the fumigation barrier.
The removal of fumigation requirements on U.S. cotton presents an incredibly important opportunity for the U.S. cotton industry. Currently, U.S. cotton is facing increasing competition from Brazil, which offers comparable cotton quality at a lower price point. Brazil has also been actively intensifying its marketing activities in the region, resulting in exports of 945,000 bales of cotton to Bangladesh in MY 21/22, accounting for 12% of cotton market share in the country.
However, the fumigation requirement for Brazilian cotton remains in effect, giving U.S. cotton a competitive edge in the market. Mills and manufacturers in Bangladesh can now purchase U.S. cotton without incurring additional fumigation costs, a benefit they would not receive if they chose to purchase Brazilian cotton. This advantage is expected to drive future U.S. cotton exports and open new opportunities for the industry.