The Leading Cotton Exporting Countries In The World

Cotton flowers.
Cotton flowers.

Cotton, a top fiber for textile-making, is derived from the cotton plants of the Gossypium genus of the Malvaceae family. Raw cotton is a soft and fluffy fiber that grows as a boll around the seeds of the cotton plant. The cotton fiber is composed of almost pure cellulose. The cotton plant is a shrub that grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Mexico, Australia, and Africa host the greatest diversity of wild cotton species. Cotton was independently domesticated in the both the Old and the New World. Raw cotton is spun into thread or yarn that is used to make cotton textiles which are soft and breathable. Archeological excavations have revealed that cotton was used since prehistoric times. In Mexico and the Indus Valley, cotton fabric dating back to 5000 BC have been recovered.

Cotton Production In The World

Although cotton has been cultivated in the world since antiquity, the invention of worm-gear roller gin in India in the 16th century and then the modern mechanical cotton gin in 1793 by the American inventor Eli Whitney, allowed the large-scale commercial production of cotton. It also lowered the cost of the product making cotton the most widely used natural fiber used in the textile industry of the modern world.

According to estimates, the world production of cotton is about 110 million bales or 25 million tons annually. China is the world’s leading cotton producing country but most of the cotton produced here is consumed by the domestic market. India ranks second in cotton production but a large proportion of the cotton produced here is also consumed by the Indian textile industry. The United States ranks third in cotton production in the world.

Top Raw Cotton Exporting Countries In The World

The United States

The United States is currently the largest raw cotton exporting country in the world by exporting cotton worth $4.06 billion USD, accounting for 36% of the total cotton export in the world. Almost all of the cotton grown in the country is produced by the southern and western states of the country with Texas, California, and Arizona being the leading cotton producing states in the country. Over 99% of the US grown cotton is the Upland variety and the rest is of the American Pima variety. In the US, cotton production is a $25 billion-per-year industry. More than 200,000 people are employed in this industry in the country.

Four out of the top five markets for US cotton are located in North America. 33% of the total cotton produced here is imported by Honduras. The next biggest importer of US cotton is Mexico. Exports to Mexico account for 18% of the US cotton export earnings. The Dominican Republic is the third leading importer of US cotton. China is the fourth leading cotton export market for the US. Cotton exports to this country increased from $46 million USD in 2000 to over $2 billion USD in 2010.


India is the second leading exporter of raw cotton in the world. Exports of raw cotton from India account for 15% of the total global export value of this product. Cotton plays a vital role in the economy of the country and cotton export contributes significantly to the country’s GDP. Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Telangana are the three leading cotton producing states in the country.

Cotton Export From African Nations

As can be seen from the data below, a number of African nations feature in the list of the top 10 cotton exporting countries in the world with Burkina Faso being the African leader in raw cotton export. The share of Africa in the cotton trade has doubled since 1980. Although Africa does not have a significant domestic textile industry, cotton is grown by small holders in some countries of Africa. Certain US companies like the Dunavant Enterprises, based in Memphis, Tennessee, act as cotton brokers in Africa and operate cotton gins in the African countries and supports the intensive cotton farming industry in the continent. The US companies offer loans for seed purchase to the farmers and advise them on farming methods. Thus, cotton production and export from the African countries is steadily increasing.

The Leading Cotton Exporting Countries In The World

RankCountryExport Value in USD, B=billion, M=million% of total export value
1United States4.06 B36
2India1.71 B15
3Brazil1.26 B11
4Australia800 M7.1
5Burkina Faso452 M4.0
6Greece329 M2.9
7Uzbekistan311 M2.8
8Cote D' Ivoire258 M2.3
9Benin237 M2.1
10Turkmenistan236 M2.1

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