160,000 farmers across India, Pakistan and China are set to benefit © LightRocket/Getty Images
160,000 farmers across India, Pakistan and China are set to benefit © LightRocket/Getty Images

Primark expands training for cotton farmers

Primark is to dramatically increase the number of farmers participating in its Sustainable Cotton Programme, which aims to minimise the crop’s impact on the environment and improve growers’ profits.

The retailer has announced a fivefold increase in the number of farmers to be trained as part of the CIPS award-winning programme, which sees the cotton supply chain traced from farm to the high street.

In 2016 Primark was named winner in the Best Contribution to Corporate Responsibility category of the CIPS Supply Management Awards.

The latest move will bring the total number of farmers in India, Pakistan and China trained in sustainable farming methods to 160,000 by the end of 2022.

The programme will continue a partnership with CottonConnect, with whom Primark has been working since 2013 to train female farmers in India to use less water and chemicals.

However, male farmers will now also be able to participate in the programme, which will help it increase the number of participants.

“By starting at the very beginning of the supply chain, the cotton can be directly traced from cotton field through manufacture to delivery to Primark’s stores,” said Primark.

“This gives the retailer and its customers complete confidence in the source of the sustainable cotton used, its environmentally friendly credentials, and the positive impact on farmers’ livelihoods.”

Cotton is the main natural fibre used to make many Primark products including pyjamas, t-shirts, jeans, baby clothing, bedding and towels.

The retailer described the programme’s expansion to China – one of the largest cotton-growing countries in the world and a key sourcing location for Primark – as significant.

As well as CottonConnect it is also working alongside the Helping Cotton Farmers’ Cooperative to bring more than 80,000 independent cotton farmers in China into the programme. 

“Each farmer that goes through the three-year programme is trained on the most appropriate farming techniques for their land, from seed selection, sowing, soil, water, pesticide and pest management, to picking, fibre quality, grading and storage of the harvested cotton,” said Primark.

The retailer believes the programme improves the livelihoods’ of the cotton farmers through increased income via increased cotton yields and reduced water, chemical, fertiliser and pesticide costs.

It said that in Pakistan, since the programme was launched last year, farmers who have undergone a year of training had seen a yield increase of 11.2% alongside a 12.9% reduction in input costs, resulting in an average profit increase of 26.8%.

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