7. December 2017 / International cotton conference 2018: What are the key issues?

Inteview with Elke Hortmeyer, Bremen Cotton Exchange und Axel Drieling, Fibre Insitute Bremen:

The countdown for the 34th International Cotton Conference 2018 has started. True to tradition, the Conference will take place from 21st to 23rd March in the historic Town Hall of the Hanseatic city of Bremen, in the immediate vicinity of the Cotton Exchange. Once again, more than 450 participants from around the world are expected. The Bremen Cotton Ex­change and the Fibre Institute Bremen are jointly responsible for ho­sting the Conference. The Cotton Report editorial team spoke to Elke Hortmeyer, Director of Communications and International Relations at the Bremen Cotton Exchange and Axel Drie­ling, Senior Manager Cotton at the Fibre Institute Bremen, about the contents and objectives of the Conference.

Cotton Report: What does the conference headline ‘Cotton Insights’ stand for? What sets the programme apart from previous years?

Elke Hortmeyer: We used the time after the end of our Cotton Conference in March 2016 to carefully analyse market developments and determine current topics and areas of activity that are of intense concern to the industry. What interests the cotton producer these days and what does a brand come to Bremen for when it comes to cotton?

Axel Drieling: ‘Cotton Insights’ underlines the depth of content and, at the same time, the quality of the Bremen Conference, for which it has been known since the beginning. It highlights the world of cotton and offers solutions to future challenges. Solutions that are not only important for the cotton industry, but also for the entire cotton supply chain from processing to textile retailers, because they focus on the needs of end consumers.

Where do you see some major challenges for the cotton industry in the coming years?

Elke Hortmeyer: In the cotton sector, issues such as transparency and traceability are no longer simply discussed behind closed doors, but at customer level, i.e. industry and retailers. They are also being increasingly publicly demanded by consumers. Whereas in the past, the finished cotton textile and its price were in the foreground, the market, at whatever level, is now increasingly concerned with the raw material cotton and its properties.

Furthermore, cotton undoubtedly remains a strong, sustainable natural fibre for textiles and clothing. However, it must distinguish itself more clearly than ever as an intelligent fibre with even more added value for consumers. This requires focused communication.

Is there anything else?

Axel Drieling: Digitalisation is finding its way into all areas of the cotton value chain. It begins on the cotton field. In future, data will be available here that will enable the targeted improvement of cultivation on every square metre. Modern techniques help to retrieve this data and the corresponding recommendations on what to do at any time. This could also bring great progress for developing countries.

Digitalisation is also the most important step in processing. Industry 4.0 is the keyword here. Textile processing machines are controlled by integrated sensors and intelligent control systems. This can be used, for example, to enable rapid production adjustments to small production lots which are being increasingly demanded by the market.

More and more consumers are using the internet for shopping, where they find collections that change weekly. This necessitates changes in the textile manufacturers’ procurement processes, as well as at retail level.

In a nutshell, data collection driven by digitalisation helps to increase the efficiency of processes at all levels and, in addition, to reduce the environmental footprint of the entire, globally connected supply chain.

Does the associated technical progress also lead to new requirements in terms of cotton quality?

Axel Drieling: The Fibre Institute is one of the driving forces in the process of standardisation. The speed with which cotton is spun and cotton yarns are woven today has increased. As already mentioned, the machines are controlled by highly sensitive digital processes. The quality of the cotton being processed must meet the requirements of this technology in terms of its properties and regardless of origin and method of cultivation. In the context of their worldwide Bremen-Aachen Survey on Cotton Quality, the Fibre Institute Bremen, in cooperation with the Institute of Textile Technology Aachen and supported by the Bremen Cotton Exchange, has determined which requirements will be important for spinning mills in the future. The results will be part of the discussions at the next Conference.

How does the event link the requirements of science and practice?

Axel Drieling: The Conference is deliberately not planned as a purely scientific conference, but as practical information for participants from all areas of the value chain. With the appropriate expert sessions, however, the Conference provides the opportunity to present highly innovative topics with deep insights that will become relevant to practice in the future.

The Cotton Exchange is supporting the ‘Sustain’ event organised by the daily newspaper ‘Weser-Kurier’. What is the motivation behind this?

Elke Hortmeyer: In the run-up to the International Cotton Conference, the publisher and editors of a leading daily newspaper ‘Weser-Kurier’ are inviting participants to their economic summit ‘Sustain’, in cooperation with the Bremen Cotton Exchange. Here, an expert forum will discuss development prospects on the African continent. It is well-known that almost 55 million people in Africa live from cotton cultivation, so this will be one of the main themes of the event. The summit will take place on Tuesday, March 20th.

How can potential visitors find out in good time about the contents and the proceedings of the Conference?

Elke Hortmeyer: As of now, potential interested parties will receive up to date and detailed information about the Conference content and its subjects on the Conference homepage, as well as in regular newsletters and, moreover, by active press work. It is already possible to register for the Conference online and to make hotel bookings. Once again this year, the industry will come together on Thursday at the end of the second day of the Conference for the ‘Cotton Night’ after-work party, formerly known as the ‘Bremen Evening’, in the cellar rooms of the old Town Hall.

Thank you for the interview.

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