Did you know?
- In the 2014/15 production year, South Africa’s cotton crop produced 94 000 bales of cotton fibre of 200kg each. That equates to around 19 million pairs of denim jeans, or 63 million t-shirts.
- A single cotton bale can produce approximately 200 pairs of denim jeans or 670 t-shirts.
- The cotton plant is very versatile. Its different parts can be used in multiple products, from baking ingredients to livestock feed; packaging to clothing; linen to soap, among many others.
- Cotton is an ancient material. Archaeologists have found evidence of its use dating back over 7000 years.
- The word cotton is derived from ‘qutun’, an Arabic word.
- Cotton grows naturally in different colours, in white, brown, pink and green.
- The earliest reports of cotton growing in South Africa date back to 1516
- The word ‘gin’ is derived from engine
COMPOSITION & USES OF COTTON
The first step in processing picked cotton takes place at the ginnery. Fibre, which makes up around 37% of the total mass of cotton is separated from the seed. The fibre consists almost exclusively of cellulose and is the most important product of cotton from a commercial viewpoint.
This diagram shows the various products that are derived from the cotton plant.
Cotton seed is economically valuable, and the oil extracted from there can be processed into various products, including:
- Fuzzy cotton - 3%
- Hulls - 30%
- Pulp - 61%
- Loss (waste) - 6%
The pulp is processed into the following products:
- Crude oil - 21%
- Oil-cake - 74%
- Loss (waste) - 5%
The oil is used in food preparation, while the cake or meal is used in fodder production. Cotton seed contains gossypol, a poisonous substance which is removed from the edible oil in the refining process. Chemical additives are added to oil cake to render the gossypol harmless. The oil-cake is constituted more or less as follows:
- Albumen - 45%
- Fat - 6%
- Fibre - 10%
- Carbohydrate - 24%
- Minerals - 5%
- Liquid - 10%
HISTORY OF COTTON
The word "cotton" as we know it today originates from the Arabic word "qutun". In Middle Dutch it was also known as "cotton" and with the development of Afrikaans as a spoken language it became "catoen" and eventually "katoen".
Nobody knows exactly how long cotton has been in existence. That said, archaeologists have found fragments of cotton bolls and cloth of more than 7000 years old in prehistoric caves in Mexico.
There is evidence that Egyptians in the Nile Valley were manufacturing and wearing cotton clothes 3 000 years before the birth of Christ. At around the same time cotton was also being grown in the valley of the Indus River in Pakistan, where it was hand-spun and hand-woven into fabric. The great philosophers Herodotus and Pliny both mentioned cotton in their writings.
In 1793 Eli Whitney, an American inventor, patented the first ginning machine. The machine allowed workers to separate fibre from seed 50 times faster than the manual process. He called the machine a "gin", which is an abbreviation of the word "engine". Even today, the process of separating fibre from seed is known as ginning.
HISTORY OF COTTON IN SOUTH AFRICA
In South Africa, historical documents record that a man named Barbosa found indigenous people growing and wearing cotton as early as 1516. This was a species of wild cotton, which still exists today.
The first cotton seed was planted in 1690 in the Western Cape, more or less 40 years after Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival. However, the cotton plant prefers a warm climate and requires a substantial amount of moisture for the seed to germinate.
In 1846, a Dr Adams brought seed from America and started growing cotton in the Amanzimtoti district in KwaZulu Natal. The American Civil War escalated demand for cotton and it was planted on a relatively large scale between 1860 and 1870 in both Natal and the Cape Colony. Production came to a virtual standstill after 1870, picking up again only at the start of the twentieth century.
In 1904 about 12 to 14 hectares were planted in the Tzaneen area. A cotton gin was erected in the area in 1905, enabling cotton to be ginned and baled mechanically. A Mr. Taylor established an experimental station in Rustenburg in 1913, to advise farmers. Between that year and 1922, cotton was cultivated mainly in the then-named Transvaal Lowveld and Eastern Transvaal (today called Mpumalanga).
In 1922, the co-operative movement was born in Barberton when a co-operative and ginnery were established there.
Even in the early days of its cultivation, cotton played an important role in the manufacture of explosives, when African Explosives erected a ginnery at Umbogintwini in KwaZulu Natal in 1924.
In the same year a Mr. Rouxliard erected a ginnery at Magut, in KwaZulu Natal, and the Lancashire Cotton Corporation Spinners, from the United Kingdom, established another in 1935 at Louis Trichardt. At that point, fibre was exported to Liverpool for spinning and weaving, since there were no facilities available in South Africa.
In 1927, cotton was grown under irrigation in the Lower Orange River area for the first time.
Cotton production dropped in the early 1930s, and the next ginnery was only erected late in that decade by Amaro at Standerton.
According to Section 102 of the Co-operative Societies Act (Act 29 of 1929), cotton was officially declared an agricultural crop in 1939.