Cotton price at a high: How climate change is making tampons more expensive

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Cotton products such as tampons or gauze bandages have recently become significantly more expensive in the USA. A drought in the main growing region of Texas sent cotton prices skyrocketing. Farmers around the world are feeling the effects of climate change. Despite a lack of water, some countries are reaping record harvests – thanks to groundbreaking ideas.

First are toilet paper and Babymilchpulver – and then there will be Tampons meager. In supermarkets and pharmacies in the USA, shelves for menstrual products were sometimes completely empty last year. Some brands were temporarily unavailable in certain regions.

The prices for tampons climbed in 2022 13 percent up. Many women could no longer afford menstrual products. People on low incomes have to choose between groceries and feminine hygiene products, said Kathy Tammes of the nonprofit organization Go with the Flow at the TV station FOX 32.

The tampon crisis in the USA has several reasons. As with toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, people bought hamsters. Another problem was the “expensive and volatile” supply chains, according to the “Always” manufacturer Procter & Gamble, one of the largest US producers of menstrual items. The “ob” producer Edgewell also had problems: there were staff absent due to several corona outbreaks.

Cotton is a key component

But cotton is a key component for tampons or pads, said supply chain expert Zac Rogers of Colorado State University KOAA News.

Raw materials such as cotton, but also plastics and pulp, became more expensive last year. The international cotton price climbed partially a historic highone almost 30 percent.

As a result, in addition to tampons, many things made of cotton have become more expensive in the USA. Gauze bandages cost according to a report by the New York Times an average of 8 percent more, cotton balls 9 percent, cloth diapers were even 21 percent more expensive. That was well above the country’s inflation rate of 6.5 percent in 2022.

“Many companies have started to include organic cotton in their tampons. If it’s 100 percent, it’s of course very expensive, because organic cotton cultivation deserves a higher price simply because of the higher effort. If you use organic cotton for hygiene products instead of cheaper ones like before cellulose products, then the price is of course higher,” says Elke Hortmeyer, spokeswoman for the Bremen Cotton Exchange in the ntv podcast “Learned something again”.

US cotton crop ‘second lowest since Civil War’

The biggest cotton producers worldwide are India, China, the USA, Brazil, Australia and Pakistan. The United States is the largest cotton exporter.

Last year, however, the USA had to contend with a slump in harvest. This was due to a drought: In Texas it rained much less than usual. The Lone Star State also had the second hottest summer on record. In addition, the important aquifer Ogallala Aquifer, which Texas farmers used to irrigate their cotton crops, has long been declining – in part due to climate change.

That’s a big problem for the US cotton industry because nearly half is grown in Texas. Texas farmers had to last year 74 percent give up their crops because of the heat and parched soil. “The second lowest level since the civil war,” reports Elke Hortmeyer. The harvest was noticeably reduced.

Cotton threatened by flooding

Less cotton was produced worldwide: the drought in the USA was joined by the Storm in Pakistan added. In August, rainfall flooded a third of the country’s area, and around 1,600 people died. 40 to 45 percent of cotton crops were devastated. The parched ground could not absorb the water masses. The fifth largest cotton producer has been struggling with heavy rain and flooding for years. A more devastating example of global warming, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said at the UN general debate in September. Neighboring India also harvested less cotton due to rainfall.

Experts predict that climate change will increasingly threaten cotton cultivation worldwide. Half of the growing regions will be by 2040 The climate risk such as droughts, floods and forest fires.

And even if cotton only needs a fraction of the amount of water that has been claimed for years, the plant still cannot do without it: Over half of the world’s cotton-growing area depends on rain. Will be in the US and India 65 percent of the cotton-growing area irrigated by rainfall.

Wassernotstand in Arizona

In the US state of Arizona, farmers need more and more water for irrigation. In the future, the need according to a Study still rise. The cotton harvest in the arid desert state will drop by at least 40 percent by the middle of the century due to the predicted climate conditions.

The US government already had one on the Colorado River in southwestern North America in the summer of 2021 Water emergency declared. Arizona and Nevada have had to reduce their water use. The river that supplies many cities with water is drying up more and more.

US farmers are responding to climate change by downsizing or relocating unprofitable fields. “Wherever the farmer sees that it is of no use to grow cotton here because the yields are too low, the soil is not good enough, that is where things are sorted out,” explains Elke Hortmeyer in the podcast.

The Bremen expert knows that US cotton cultivation is shifting towards the north, influenced by the climatic conditions. “To where cotton cultivation is actually not so native or not necessarily common.”

Sophisticated irrigation technology

Cotton does not need as much water as many other crops. For the production of one kilo Reis for example, about 2300 liters of water are needed. Cotton consumes only around 1200 liters according to figures from the International Cotton Secretariat ICAC.

The white natural fiber is cultivated particularly in dry regions where other crops no longer grow at all. It only needs water at certain times. Artificial irrigation makes significantly higher yields possible.

In the meantime, considerably more cotton can be produced with less water – even in very dry countries. With the help of high-tech companies, Israel has almost the highest yields in the world, says Elke Hortmeyer in the “Learned again” podcast. The country uses drip irrigation and waters with recycled water. Another example is Australia. “Sometimes they have very little water, but thanks to this fantastic water management, they are currently able to achieve the highest yields in the world.”

Climate-resistant cotton varieties

Although cotton is a relatively climate-resilient crop, like other crops, farmers need to adapt to climate change. One possibility is that they ensure that their fields are used as much as possible Humus contain. The soil can then store water better. According to the cotton expert, they could also rely on seeds that are drought-resistant or do well in salty soil. Research has been going on for a long time and there is still a lot that can be done.

The big tree producers China and India say so United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts better cotton harvests for the 2022/2023 crop year after previously lower yields. “We have good harvests in Brazil, we have good harvests in China. We have very, very good results in African countries,” says Hortmeyer. Yields are expected to fall in the US. Still, there is no need to panic now, the expert reassured: If things go badly in the United States, it won’t be a catastrophe for the entire cotton industry.

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