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Want Cheap Clothes? The Cotton Industry's Not 100% Fit

Want Cheap Clothes? The Cotton Industry's Not 100% Fit

The global economy is about to hit your Saturday morning shopping spree. As we've seen food prices grow in response to higher crop prices, fashionistas should be ready to see their clothes prices follow suit, and it's a two-piece problem.

People watching their purse strings are causing garment makers to see a rapid decline in their own bottom line. Demand is down wildly. US cotton consumption alone is set to fall 6.5 percent from last year.

And you can partially blame the environment on the ever-spendier tee. More cotton farmers are swapping to more lucrative crops — soybeans, corn, and wheat — whose market prices are rising even faster. Why are these crops more enticing? The prices of these crops have been pushed higher by a mixture of subsidies and growing demand from biofuel producers.

It's not just shrinking cotton crops: energy, wages, the oil to transport goods, all make the shirt on your back cost more. Manufacturers, just like us, are hit by XXL oil prices, making their factories more expensive to operate which means pricier shipping to foreign markets. To see the human cost of the cotton trade, and how BBC sent six fashion-plates to work in an Indian garment factory,


On Indian cotton farms, farmers facing strangling bills and held at the mercy of the global market and crop hardiness, has led the country to see more than 20,000 suicides by debt-ridden farmers in the last ten years. The numbers are rising. Currently about six farm suicides are reported daily.

BBC has made the garment trade in to reality (television) with a mini-series called Blood, Sweat, and T-shirts. Here's how they describe the show which sounds fascinating:

Six young fashion addicts experience life as factory workers in India, making clothes for the British high street. In this four-part series, the six work in the mills of India’s cotton belt and stitch clothes in cramped back rooms, sleeping next to their sewing machine. See how it changes their attitudes to cut-price clothing.

I might move abroad just to catch this show.

Have your shopping habits changed? Is it an issue of cash or global consciousness? Do you pay attention to what a garment is made of before you buy? Does it surprise you that the focus on biofuels has had such an impact on the clothing market?

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