Global sales from cotton exports by country in 2018 totaled US$59.2 billion. Overall, the value of cotton exports decreased by an average -7.8% for all exporting countries since 2014 when cotton shipments were valued at $64.2 billion. Year over year, cotton shipments appreciated by 4.3% from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, Asian suppliers generate the highest portion of worldwide cotton exports at almost two-thirds (64.5%) of the global total. Sources in North America account for 14.8% trailed by suppliers in Europe at 10.3%. Smaller percentages come from Latin America (3.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (3.5%) then Oceania (3%) mainly Australia.
For research purposes, the two-digit Harmonized Tariff System code prefix for cotton is 52. This broad classification includes raw cotton, cotton yarn, thread and woven fabrics.
Below are the 15 countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of cotton during 2018.
- China: US$15.4 billion (26% of total cotton exports)
- United States: $8.4 billion (14.2%)
- India: $8.1 billion (13.7%)
- Pakistan: $3.5 billion (5.9%)
- Vietnam: $2.8 billion (4.7%)
- Turkey: $1.83 billion (3.1%)
- Australia: $1.78 billion (3%)
- Brazil: $1.73 billion (2.9%)
- Hong Kong: $1.4 billion (2.4%)
- Italy: $1.4 billion (2.4%)
- Uzbekistan: $967 million (1.6%)
- Germany: $953.4 million (1.6%)
- Indonesia: $810.9 million (1.4%)
- Spain: $653.1 million (1.1%)
- Thailand: $489.8 million (0.8%)
The listed 15 countries shipped 85% of global cotton exports in 2018 by value.
Among the top exporters, four cotton exporters realized gains since 2014 namely: Vietnam (up 80.1%), United States (up 28.5%), Brazil (up 14.9%) and Uzbekistan (up 1.4%).
Those countries that posted declines in their exported cotton sales were led by: Hong Kong (down -47.2%), Thailand (down -27.9%), Pakistan (down -26%), Germany (down -24.4%) and Spain (down -23.6%).
The following countries recorded the highest positive net exports for cotton during 2018. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. Thus, the statistics below present the surplus between the value of each country’s exported cotton and its import purchases for that same commodity.
- United States: US$7.4 billion (net export surplus up 37.5% since 2014)
- India: $7.3 billion (down -10.4%)
- China: $5.5 billion (up 55.1%)
- Pakistan: $2.3 billion (down -43.5%)
- Australia: $1.7 billion (down -3.3%)
- Brazil: $1.5 billion (up 33.7%)
- Uzbekistan: $950.2 million (down -0.1%)
- Greece: $374.4 million (down -4.2%)
- Burkina Faso: $330.4 million (down -29%)
- Turkmenistan: $308.8 million (down -50.4%)
- Ivory Coast: $277.1 million (down -10.8%)
- Italy: $264.6 million (down -0.9%)
- Tajikistan: $200.9 million (up 43.4%)
- Spain: $168.1 million (down -38.5%)
- Austria: $140.4 million (up 101.9%)
The United States, India and China posted the highest surpluses in the international trade of cotton. In turn, these positive cashflows confirm these leading countries’ strong competitive advantages for this specific product category.
The following countries posted the highest negative net exports for cotton during 2018. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. Thus, the statistics below present the deficit between the value of each country’s imported cotton purchases and its exports for that same commodity.
- Bangladesh: -US$6.5 billion (deficit no 2014 data)
- Vietnam: -$2.3 billion (deficit up 38.6% since 2014)
- Indonesia: -$1.6 billion (down -0.7%)
- South Korea: -$823.6 million (up 6.7%)
- Cambodia: -$715.7 million (up 128.8%)
- Mexico: -$695.4 million (down -21.1%)
- Turkey: -$681.7 million (down -40.6%)
- Sri Lanka: -$648.8 million (up 19.8%)
- Russia: -$538.6 million (up 19.7%)
- Portugal: -$487.3 million (up 4.8%)
- Morocco: -$467.7 million (down -7%)
- Colombia: -$462.6 million (down -0.9%)
- Tunisia: -$445.2 million (down -36.5%)
- Benin: -$440 million (down -275.7%)
- Egypt: -$423.8 million (up 106.5%)
A world leader manufacturing apparel, Bangladesh incurred the highest deficit in the international trade of cotton–a key component for making a wide range of clothing and related articles. In turn, this negative cashflow highlights Bangladesh’s strong competitive disadvantage for this specific product category but also signals opportunities for cotton-supplying countries that help satisfy the powerful Bangladeshi demand.