By admin       2018-10-15

CAIRO - Durable, fine and luxuriously soft, cotton sourced from Egypt has long been seen as the best on the market. But recent years have been far from smooth for the North African country's farmers. Cotton was once Egypt's main source of wealth in the 19th century, as the Nile Delta provided fertile grounds for the crop used to make the towels, sheets and robes coveted by Europe's burgeoning bourgeoisie. But decades of fierce international competition has diminished returns. The United States and Brazil are now the world's top cotton exporters, according to this month's report by the US Department of Agriculture, followed by India and Australia, leaving Egypt trailing far behind. Back in 1975, Egypt exported $540-million of cotton. By 2016, the sector's export receipts had fallen to $90.4-million, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Egypt's output of cotton fibres fell as low as 94,000 tonnes in 2013, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, down from 510,000 tonnes in 1971. Last year brought producers some respite, thanks to rising prices and higher export volumes. The commodity was trading at a shade under $0.77 per pound (0.45 kilos) in early October, after reaching $0.95 -- the highest level in more than six years -- in early June. In Egypt, the price has dropped back to the minimum guaranteed by the state of some 2,700 Egyptian pounds ($150, 130 euros) per 100 kilos. Egypt's cotton union says buyers are even demanding lower prices, without triggering any intervention by the government.

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