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Ranked: The World’s Top Cotton Producers

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Ranked: The World's Top Cotton Producers

The Top Cotton Producers

Cotton is present in our everyday life, from clothes to coffee strainers, and more recently in masks to control the spread of COVID-19.

As the most-used natural fiber, cotton has become the most important non-food agricultural product. Currently, approximately half of all textiles require cotton fibers.

The above infographic lists the world’s top cotton producers, using data from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Fancy Fabric

Originating from the Arabic word “quton,” meaning fancy fabric, cotton is a staple fiber made up of short fibers twisted together to form yarn.

The earliest production of cotton was around 5,000 B.C. in India, and today, around 25 million tons of cotton are produced each year.

Currently, five countries make up around 75% of global cotton production, with China being the world’s biggest producer. The country is responsible for over 23% of global production, with approximately 89 million cotton farmers and part-time workers. Cotton’s importance cannot be understated, as it is the primary input for the Chinese textile industry along with many other nations’ textile industries.

Top Cotton Producers2020/2021 (metric tons)2021/2022 (metric tons)
🇨🇳 China 6,445,0005,835,000
🇮🇳 India6,009,0005,334,000
🇺🇸 United States3,181,0003,815,000
🇧🇷 Brazil2,356,0002,504,000
🇦🇺 Australia610,0001,252,000
🇵🇰 Pakistan 980,0001,306,000
🇹🇷 Turkey631,000827,000
🌐 Other 4,059,0004,282,000
Total24,271,00025,155,000

The United States is the leading global exporter of cotton, exporting three-fourths of its crop with China as the top buyer.

Despite its importance for the global economy, cotton production faces significant sustainability challenges.

The Controversy Over Cotton

Cotton is one of the largest users of water among all agricultural commodities, and production often involves applying pesticides that threaten soil and water quality.

Along with this, production often involves forced and child labor. According to the European Commission, child labor in the cotton supply chain is most common in Africa and Asia, where it comes from small-holder farmers.

In 2020, U.S. apparel maker Patagonia stopped sourcing cotton from the autonomous territory of Xinjiang because of reports about forced labor and other human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.

L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has also committed to eliminating Chinese cotton from its supply chain. Whether these changes in supply chains impact China’s cotton production and its practices, cotton remains essential to materials found across our daily lives.

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Misc

Visualizing Raw Steel Production in 2023

China produces more than half the world’s steel.

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Voronoi graphic showing the estimated global production of raw steel in 2023.

Visualizing Raw Steel Production in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Steel is essential for the economy due to its crucial role in infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, and transportation sectors.

This graphic breaks down the estimated global production of raw steel in 2023. The data was sourced from the U.S. Geological Survey as of January 2024.

China Produces More Than Half the World’s Steel

One major issue facing the steel industry is overcapacity in top producer China.

Steel production in China has surpassed demand in recent years, leading to downward pressure on the profit margins of steel mills worldwide.

Historically, China’s troubled real estate sector has accounted for over one-third of the country’s steel consumption. To address this issue, the Chinese government has mandated steel production cuts since 2021.

Far behind China, India is the second-biggest producer of steel, followed by Japan.

CountryRegion2023 Production (million tonnes)
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia1,000
🇮🇳 IndiaAsia140
🇯🇵 JapanAsia87
🇺🇸 U.S.North America80
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope75
🇰🇷 S. KoreaAsia68
🌍 Rest of World420
Total1,870

Infinite Recyclability

Steel is an alloy primarily composed of iron ore containing less than 2% carbon, 1% manganese, and other trace elements. It is 1,000 times stronger than iron and can be recycled over and over without sacrificing quality.

Steel is widely used in various industries. It is a fundamental material in construction, providing support through beams, internal structures, and roofing.

Moreover, steel’s corrosion-resistant properties make it ideal for water infrastructure. Stainless steel pipes are the preferred choice for underground water systems, ensuring longevity and purity in water transportation.

Additionally, most canned foods are stored in steel containers for preservation, as steel does not rust.

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Visualizing Cobalt Production by Country in 2023

The Democratic Republic of Congo accounts for 74% of the world’s cobalt output.

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Visualizing Cobalt Production by Country in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Cobalt is a critical mineral used in numerous commercial, industrial, and military applications. In recent years, it has gained attention as it is also necessary for batteries used in cell phones, laptops, and electric vehicles (EVs).

This graphic illustrates estimated cobalt production by country in 2023 in metric tons. The data is from the most recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Commodity Summaries, published in January 2024.

The DRC Produces 74% of Global Cobalt

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accounts for 74% of the world’s cobalt output. Although the metal is found on a large scale in other parts of the world, like Australia, Europe, and Asia, the African nation holds the biggest reserve by far. Of the 11,000,000 metric tons of worldwide reserves, it is estimated that 6,000,000 metric tons are located in the DRC.

Countrymetric tonsPercentage
🇨🇩 DRC170,00074%
🇮🇩 Indonesia17,0007%
🇷🇺 Russia8,8004%
🇦🇺 Australia4,6002%
🇲🇬 Madagascar4,0002%
🇵🇭 Philippines3,8002%
🌍 Other Countries21,1009.00%
Total229,300100%

Since around 20% of the cobalt mined in the DRC originates from small-scale artisanal mines, often employing child labor, the extraction of the metal has been a point of intense debate. With a long history of conflict, political upheaval, and instability, the country is often listed among the poorest nations in the world.

Today, the EV sector constitutes 40% of the overall cobalt market.

China is the world’s leading consumer of cobalt, with nearly 87% of its consumption used by the lithium-ion battery industry.

In the U.S., 50% of cobalt consumed is used in superalloys, mainly in aircraft gas turbine engines.

Learn More About Critical Minerals From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out The Critical Minerals to China, EU, and U.S. National Security. This visualization shows which minerals are essential to China, the United States, and the European Union.

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