Box 13: Cotton in the Sahel

Over the past 50 years, and particularly in the past two decades, cotton has become a key export crop for many Sahelian countries. Although cotton is a plantation crop in the European Union and the United States of America, in the Sahel it is grown almost exclusively on small farms. Moreover, this success has not been achieved at the expense of foregone cereal production. Cotton production has contributed to higher incomes, improved livelihoods and better access to social services such as education and health.

Mali is one of the largest cotton producers in the region, and indeed in all of sub-Saharan Africa. In 2006, roughly 200 000 Malian smallholder farmers produced cotton for sale on the international market. Over the past 45 years, cotton production has increased by more than 8 percent per year, providing an average income of US$200 per household for over 25 percent of Malian rural households.

Mali’s cotton farmers traditionally cultivate cotton in rotation with coarse grains, particularly maize and sorghum. Contrary to popular fears that cash crops may have a negative effect on food-crop production and household food security, cotton production has actually boosted coarse grain production in Mali. Unlike coarse grains produced outside the cotton zone, cereals grown by cotton farmers benefit from greater access to fertilizer and from the residual effects of cotton fertilizers procured and financed through the region’s cotton-based input/credit system. Cereal fields also benefit from improved farming practices made possible through the use of animal traction obtain higher yields in both cotton and coarse grains than the semi-equipped and manual producers (Dioné, 1989; Raymond and Fok 1995; Kébé, Diakite and Diawara, 1998). Well-equipped cotton farmers, likewise, are more able to satisfy the demanding husbandry requirements of maize production, including timely planting, frequent ploughing and regular weeding (Boughton and de Frahan, 1994). They also tend to sell more cereals to the markets. In general, farmers using animal traction account for the majority of cereal sales, primarily because of their higher per capita production.

Historically, an important factor in the success of cotton farmers with both cotton and cereals has been the extension support provided by the Compagnie Malienne de Développement des Textiles (CMDT). The CMDT’s construction and maintenance of regional feeder roads has also facilitated the collection and transport of seed cotton. This benefits food-crop marketing by helping to lower marketing costs and improve market integration in the zone. The Malian cotton experience highlights the importance of investing in agriculture if biofuels are to become an engine of agricultural growth.

Cotton also illustrates the impact of OECD countries’ subsidies to production and exports and tariffs on imports of farm-based commodities. Anderson and Valenzuela (2007) estimate that the removal of current distortions affecting cotton markets would boost global economic welfare by US$283 million per year and raise the price of cotton by about 13 percent. Moreover, West African cotton farmer’s incomes would rise by 40 percent.

Source: based on Tefft (forthcoming).

Source: FAO, The State of Food and Agriculture, Biofuels: Prospects, Risks and Opportunities (2008) , Chapter 6, p.81

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Other Figures & Tables on this publication:

TABLE 1: Biofuel production by country, 2007

TABLE 2: Biofuel yields for different feedstocks and countries

TABLE 3: Hypothetical potential for ethanol from principal cereal and sugar crops

TABLE 4: Voluntary and mandatory bioenergy targets for transport fuels in G8+5 countries

TABLE 5: Applied tariffs on ethanol in selected countries

TABLE 6: Total support estimates for biofuels in selected OECD economies in 2006

TABLE 7: Approximate average and variable rates of support per litre of biofuel in selected OECD economies

TABLE 8: Energy demand by source and sector: reference scenario

TABLE 9: Land requirements for biofuel production

TABLE 10: Water requirements for biofuel crops

TABLE 11: Import bills of total food and major food commodities for 2007 and their percentage increase over 2006

TABLE 12: Net importers of petroleum products and major cereals, ranked by prevalence of undernourishment

TABLE 13: Share of net staple food-seller households among urban, rural and total households

Box 1: Other types of biomass for heat, power and transport

Box 2: Biotechnology applications for biofuels

Box 3: Biofuel policies in Brazil

Box 4: Biofuel policies in the United States of America

Box 5: Biofuel policies in the European Union

Box 6: Main sources of uncertainty for biofuel projections

Box 7: Biofuels and the World Trade Organization

Box 8: Biofuels and preferential trade initiatives

Box 9: The Global Bioenergy Partnership

Box 10: Biofuels and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Box 11: Jatropha – a “miracle” crop?

Box 12: Agricultural growth and poverty reduction

Box 13: Cotton in the Sahel

Box 14: Biofuel crops and the land issue in the United Republic of Tanzania

Figure 1: World primary energy demand by source, 2005

Figure 2: Total primary energy demand by source and region, 2005

Figure 3: Trends in consumption of transport biofuels

Figure 4: Biofuels – from feedstock to end use

Figure 5: Uses of biomass for energy

Figure 6: Conversion of agricultural feedstocks into liquid biofuels

Figure 7: Estimated ranges of fossil energy balances of selected fuel types

Figure 8: Support provided at different points in the biofuel supply chain

Figure 9: Biofuel production costs in selected countries, 2004 and 2007

Figure 10: Breakeven prices for crude oil and selected feedstocks in 2005

Figure 11: Breakeven prices for maize and crude oil in the United States of America

Figure 12: Breakeven prices for maize and crude oil with and without subsidies

Figure 13: Maize and crude oil breakeven prices and observed prices, 2003–08

Figure 14: Price relationships between crude oil and other biofuel feedstocks, 2003-08

Figure 15: Food commodity price trends 1971–2007, with projections to 2017

Figure 16: Global ethanol production, trade and prices, with projections to 2017

Figure 17: Major ethanol producers, with projections to 2017

Figure 18: Global biodiesel production, trade and prices, with projections to 2017

Figure 19: Major biodiesel producers, with projections to 2017

Figure 20: Total impact of removing trade-distorting biofuel policies for ethanol, 2013–17 average

Figure 21: Total impact of removing trade-distorting biofuel policies for biodiesel, 2013–17 average

Figure 22: Life-cycle analysis for greenhouse gas balances

Figure 23: Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of selected biofuels relative to fossil fuels

Figure 24: Potential for cropland expansion

Figure 25: Potential for yield increase for selected biofuel feedstock crops

Figure 26: Potential for irrigated area expansion

Figure 27: Agricultural trade balance of least-developed countries

Figure 28: Distribution of poor net buyers and sellers of staple foods1

Figure 29: Average welfare gain/loss from a 10 percent increase in the price of the main staple, by income (expenditure) quintile for rural and urban households