ImagesMagUK_June_2021 JUNE 2021 images 35 KB MARKET INTELLIGENCE Credit: Many thanks to Carlotta at Textile Exchange for this infographic explaining the process of organic conversion Sarah Compson, organic cotton ambassador and liaison at Textile Exchange, a non-profit that describes itself as a driving force for urgent climate action on textile fibre and materials, says: “It’s great to see Mantis World leading the way [in] supporting farmers during the crucial transition to organic. We urge all brands interested in organic to source in- conversion cotton. It’s vital this important step is supported in order to sustainably grow organic supply, thus helping to reduce the risk of fraud and ensure the long-term viability of organic cotton and its far-reaching positive impacts.” What is in-conversion cotton? It takes up to three years for a farm to fully convert to organic production, depending on the country. When farmers choose to start the conversion journey, they immediately switch to fully organic practices, including cutting out the pesticides and fertilisers used to grow conventional cotton. The cotton they grow in the interim harvests is what is called in-conversion cotton. “However, farms can experience lower yields in the first few years of transition and not receive the premiums to justify the change,” Prama says. “While certified organic cotton can certainly demand a premium, three years is just too long for many farmers.” How can farmers be incentivised to convert their farms? Currently, believes Prama, farmers are not very incentivised to set off on the long and sometimes arduous process of converting their farms to organic. “Some may feel they are not in a financial position to do something they deem to be a risk. And that’s understandable, with so many farmers already struggling.” What the farmers need is for in- conversion cotton to be viewed in a different way. Indeed, with some retail brands such as Patagonia and Eileen Fisher introducing it to their collections, the price of in-conversion is also rising rapidly due to increased demand. “And rightly so – these farmers are not just saving the soil, the health and prosperity of their communities and promoting biodiversity, but are helping reverse climate change by embracing organic farming practices that sequester carbon in the soil. “By supporting conversion and driving demand, farmers are rewarded at the start of their journey to organic, just as those who have already done the hard work and have been certified organic for some time are rewarded. “Helping farmers make a good living from the cotton they grow whilst they convert will foster a new generation of organic cotton farming communities for years to come.” According to Prama, the environmental benefits of organic over conventional cotton “are huge”, and she points out that many of the benefits are the same for in-conversion cotton. “From the moment a farmer decides to head down the road towards organic, they are actively making a difference to the environment by honouring organic farming practices. It also means farmers are no longer exposed to the toxic chemicals that can cause long-term health issues and premature death amongst themselves and their families,” How can we be sure in- conversion cotton is what it says it is? Transparency throughout the supply chain is the cornerstone of sustainable and ethical manufacturing. Without that, there’s no legitimacy. Mantis World has always prided itself on “doing business in the light”, and giving customers as much information as they can. The leading organic textile standards, Gots and OCS, have both recognised the important role in-conversion cotton will play and provide certification to assure integrity. “With increased interest and demand, they certainly hold the key to building consumer confidence,” says Prama. “The OCS certification does not at this time allow in-conversion garments to be labelled as OCS, however the documentary paper trail is all there for customers to see and labels will clearly state the garment is made with in-conversion cotton.” Will it cost more? There have been increases in price for all cotton, reports Prama, who notes that organic has been hit hardest due to the current lack of supply. “In the short term, most brands offering organic cotton are putting their prices up by 5-10%, with the overall true cost of an organic garment having been inflated to over 25%. The industry is now revisiting the pricing model entirely, and something we can all afford to do is ensure that more is going to the farmers at the start of the supply chain. “As the industry awaits a new harvest, time will tell if the supply will meet the demand – and if the demand itself is genuine. While we wait for the rest of the world to catch up with organic, we embrace in-conversion cotton in order to safeguard future supply, integrity and to spread the adoption of regenerative and organic agriculture. This way we can help protect the planet and build resilient communities around the world. “For us, this is yet another way to invest in the future of farmers, communities and our shared planet,” says Prama.