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<i>(Image source: Cotton Incorporated)</i>
(Image source: Cotton Incorporated)
After some improvements in the recent past, foreign matters, stickiness and seed-coat fragments in raw cotton is posing serious challenges to the cotton spinning industry worldwide, according to the "Cotton Contamination Survey 2011" recently released by the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF).

According to the survey, the level of cotton modestly or seriously contaminated as perceived by the spinning mills from around the world rose slightly from 22% to 23%, compared with the last survey in 2009. A closer look at the extent of the contamination shows that 7% (2009: 6%) of all cotton evaluated were seriously contaminated by some sort of foreign matter whereas 16% (2009: 15%) were only moderately contaminated.

And contaminants range from 5% for "tar" (2009: 4%) to 51% of all cotton processed being moderately or seriously contaminated by "organic matters", such as leaves, feathers, paper and leather (2009: 42%). Other serious contaminants are "inorganic matters" (31%), "fabrics made of cotton" (30%), "strings made of woven plastic" (29%) as well as "fabrics made of woven plastic" and "strings made of plastic film" (28% each).

The survey notes that the most contaminated cotton originated in India, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, China and Turkey. In contrast, very clean raw cotton was produced in the US (Texas High Plains, Arizona, Pima, USA-Others, Memphis and California), Syria, Benin, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Greece and Australia.

On the other hand, the presence of sticky cotton as perceived by the spinning mills increased in 2011 significantly from the record low of 16% in 2009 to 20%, according to the survey. While this level is still lower than the long-term average, the level of stickiness is still considerably high, and remains a major challenge to the global cotton spinning industry.

Descriptions that were affected most by stickiness were those from India (DCH, MCU-5, India-Others), Syria, the US (California, Pima), Spain, Mali and Uzbekistan (Medium-Staples). On the other end of the range, cotton from Argentina, Turkey (Izmir), the US (Arizona), Egypt (Giza), India (J-34) and the US (Texas High Plaines) were not or hardly affected by stickiness.

With regard to seed-coat fragments, ITMF's survey shows that their appearance in cotton growths remains an issue for spinners around the world. 38% of cotton spinners (2009: 31%) claim that they have encountered seed-coat fragments in the cotton growths consumed. This is a jump of 7 percentage points, up from only 31% in 2009.

The origins affected most by seed-coat fragments are those cotton from Nigeria, India (India-Others, MCU-5, Shankar-4/6, J-34), the US (South Eastern, California), Ivory Coast and Turkey (Turkey-Others). Cotton descriptions for which the existence of seed-coat fragments was negligible (prevalence of less than 20%) included those from Australia, Benin, India (Others), Pakistan (Others), and the US (California, Texas High Plains).

The survey is carried out every other year, the 2011 edition being the twelfth in the series since the changeover to a new methodology in 1989. In the 2011 report, 119 spinning mills located in 24 countries evaluated 71 different cotton growths.
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