The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) is one of the founding partners of the Sustainable Cotton Cluster. Elaine Smith, Director: Clothing and Textiles, explains government’s involvement and reveals why she is excited about cotton.
1. Why did the dti become involved in the Sustainable Cotton Cluster?
The dti has a competitiveness improvement programme (CIP) that provides funding for a group of companies to work together as a cluster or supply chain to improve their competitiveness. Cotton SA made use of this opportunity and applied to the dti with a well-researched and developed business plan to revive the cotton industry in South Africa and make it a viable fibre to source locally.
2. What does the dti’s involvement in the cluster entail?
The department funds the cluster project for five years. Over this period, our contribution decreases while the cluster members’ contributions increase. The idea is that the cluster must ensure that it is self-sustaining after the 5-year period.
Through the department’s support, we want to help the cotton sub-sector to become competitive and sustainable through the use of state of the art technology, skills development, strategy development, value chain integration, employment growth, etc.
3. What is the dti’s expectations post March 2019?
We hope that our support would have had a significant, sustainable and long-lasting impact that would be evident in a thriving cotton industry with integrated supply chains making use of local cotton all the way to locally manufactured cotton garments and products at retail level. It is also the expectation that this sector will become a destination for international sourcing.
4. What is the role of cotton as a sub-national cluster in the National Textile and Clothing Development Council?
The National Textile and Clothing Development Council (TCDC), which was previously called the Southern African Sustainable Textile and Apparel Cluster (SASTAC) will play coordinating role. It will ensure that the initiatives of sub-national clusters, such as the Sustainable Cotton Cluster, are in line with overall industry strategy, that they meet their milestones and they share national resources between them.
The TCDC will also provide support to the sub-national clusters. For example, once technology has been demonstrated on a sub-national level, it will become available to the rest of the industry to be adjusted and used for their purposes. Whatever has been developed on a sub-national basis can thus become a shared resource to the rest of the industry.
Cotton is one of South Africa’s natural fibres, along with wool and mohair. The dti would like to see that these sub-sectors take up the incentive available to them to develop their value chain, beneficiate raw fibres to final products and improve competitiveness to the extent that South Africa can compete globally. This can all happen in a sub-national cluster where sector-specific technology demonstration, incubation, training, strategy development and so on should take place.
In our view, the sub-national Sustainable Cotton Cluster should prove that initiatives such as integrated supply chains, technology improvements, incubation and training and can improve the overall competitiveness of a sector when carried out in line with a sector strategy.
5. What about the Sustainable Cotton Cluster excites you personally?
The traceability platform that has been developed and is being implemented throughout the cotton cluster supply chain is the first of its kind in the world and this is very exciting! It places South Africa at the forefront of sustainable development, taking into account people, planet and profit.
6. What does the dti think is necessary for the Sustainable Cotton Cluster to be a success?
The members’ commitment to making this initiative a success makes the Sustainable Cotton Cluster special. The farmers are excited and the rest of the supply chain is working together to ensure the project reaches its milestones. Every role-player within the supply chain has a part to play: commitments from retail are important to drive the project through demand, while the suppliers along the value chain should strive for excellence and implement world class manufacturing principles in order to meet local and international product quality standards.