The Commission working paper on the cotton sector is available on the internet. It sets out the situation on the world market for cotton; the situation on the community cotton market; and the operation of the EU's cotton regime. It notes that the world market price of cotton is volatile in both the short term and the long term, with developments on the Chinese market having a major influence. The USA is also a major global player, with about 30% of world production and about 30% of world trade. Consumption of ginned cotton has risen from 14.3 million tonnes in the 1980s to 20.6 million tonnes in 2001.
Within the EU, Greece and Spain are the primary cotton producers. From 1992/93 to 2000 the area under cotton rose steadily (from 300,000 hectares to 500,000 hectares) before falling back slightly. Since Spain 's accession to the EU the area under cotton has practically doubled
EU imports of ginned cotton are exempt from customs duties, and EU exports do not receive export refunds (instead processors receive processing aids to allow them to compete at world market prices where this is necessary). The EU has a negative trade balance in ginned cotton, importing around 708,000 tonnes and exporting around 227,000 tonnes. The EU produces just under half of the ginned cotton it consumes.
While the EU is not a major international player in the world cotton trade, this does not mean that the EU cotton regime does not affect developments on world markets. The impact of the EU cotton regime on EU production can be seen in the doubling of Spanish production since accession and the expansion of the area under cotton since the 1980s. It remains to be seen what the impact of the new reform proposal will be on the development of EU cotton production.