The Organic Cotton Company and Organic Pima Cotton

What is Pima cotton?

Pima cotton is a generic name for extra-long staple (ELS) cotton grown in the U.S., Australia, Peru and in very limited production in a few other locations around the world. Pima is from the gossypium barbadense species, compared to gossypium hirsutum to which upland cotton belongs. The primary differences between Pima (ELS growths) cotton and upland cotton are staple length and strength. In the U.S., cotton is considered to be ELS or Pima if it is an inch and 3/8 or longer. Its strength and uniformity measurements are also considerably higher than those of upland cotton.

Where did Pima come from

The name "Pima" is the generic term generally applied to ELS cotton grown in the U.S., Peru, Israel and Australia. The name was given to the ELS cotton being grown in the Southwest U.S. in about 1910. It had previously been called American-Egyptian cotton but was renamed to honor the Pima Indians who were growing the cotton for the USDA in Sacaton, Arizona, where the government's Pima breeding program was being conducted. The Organic Cotton Company Inc. uses 100% American Pima cotton.

Does the use of the name Pima guarantee a product's cotton content?

Not necessarily. In the past, some textile products that were labeled or marketed as Pima cotton goods were not always made of all-Pima cotton. The Organic Cotton Company Inc. guarantees our consumer's that our pima products are made of 100% American Pima cotton. The Federal Trade Commission ruled in June of 1997 that manufacturers and retailers would have to itemize cotton source content on any apparel or textile product when the name of a premium fiber was being used. For example, a product made of 60% U.S. Pima cotton and 40% U.S. upland cotton could be labeled and marketed as 100% cotton. But if the retailer or manufacturer want to mention the Pima name in the labeling or marketing, they would have to list the content of both the Pima and the upland cotton. The content should be listed based on weight percentage. You will soon discover, The Organic Cotton Company Inc. will not cut any corners or mislead our customers. Our organic pima cotton products are 100% U.S. Pima cotton.

What's the difference between Pima and Egyptian cotton?

All cotton grown in Egypt is "Egyptian" cotton, but it is not all ELS cotton. Egypt is one of the largest producers of ELS cotton in the world, but it consumes much of what it produces. The majority of what it exports is long staple cotton, not ELS cotton. However, the description "Egyptian cotton" conjures in the mind of many consumers the image of the very finest and longest cotton in the world. Egypt does produce and sell some of the best ELS cotton in the world, but it amounts to less than 15 percent of annual global ELS cotton exports, and less than 35 percent of Egyptian cotton exports. Additionally, Egypt, as this juncture, does not produce any certified organic ELS cotton. U. S. Pima cotton has become the cotton of choice among the world's fine count yarn spinners.

Why is Organic Pima a premium cotton?

Pima accounts for only three percent of annual cotton production in the United States. Its fineness and longer staple length makes Pima a premium cotton fiber. It is used to spin finer count yarns, which can be knitted or woven into softer, finer and more luxurious fabrics. It is grown in select areas of the far West and Southwest U.S. where the cotton can benefit from a long growing season in a hot, dry climate. Pima cotton is grown almost exclusively on furrowed rows where organic growers can closely regulate water and control weeds. Its production costs are much higher than upland cotton costs in the same area. Ginning is more expensive because Pima cotton is roller-ginned, not saw-ginned like upland cotton. Pima is grown in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

How do Organic Pima products benefit the consumer?

Products made of 100% American Pima cotton will have superior strength to a product made of upland cotton or upland/Pima blended cottons, which will improve the durability and increase the lifespan of the textile and apparel products. Because of the fineness of organic pima cotton, more fibers can be spun into a yarn of a given count, which will enhance the feel and softness, drapeability and brilliance of color of a fabric.

Is Pima cotton a new breed of cotton?

No. Pima cotton traces its ancestry to the famous Sea Island cottons that were produced in the southeast United States in the 1700's. That cotton was then bred with Egyptian cottons to produce the contemporary ELS cottons that have evolved in the U.S. since the turn of the 20th century. The USDA's Pima Improvement Project has been responsible for the significant advances in Pima development of the last 50 years. Each improvement bore substantial improvement over its predecessor in yield potential and fiber characteristics. None of the pima cotton varieties have been genetically modified. Genetic Modification is against USDA and Canadian organic regulations and can not be label organic.

Is Pima cotton sold only within the United States?

No. More than 75% of annual U.S. Pima consumption is offshore. Japan is the world's leading importer of ELS cotton, and its fine count textile mills acquire more than two-thirds of their annual ELS cotton requirements from U.S. Pima suppliers. Bangladesh, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Switzerland all use pima cotton for the majority of their fine count yarn production. The Organic Cotton Company Inc. is one of the few companies in North America processing organic pima cotton from raw cotton to finished, comfortable, high quality certified organic products.

For more information read the other sections of Why Organics?