21. June 2018 / Interview with President Henning Hammer – A Retrospective

Henning Hammer, Managing Director of Otto Stadtlander GmbH, has been President of the Bremen Cotton Exchange since June 2016. In accordance with the schedule and statutes, a new President will be elected at the upcoming General Assembly on June 28. In this interview, Henning Hammer takes the time to look back and assess the last two years.

Bremen Cotton Report: What moved the cotton trade? Where did we stand two years ago? Where do we stand today?

In fact, a lot has happened:  Cotton production declined by 20 percent, or 5 million tonnes, to 21 million tonnes in the 2015/16 season. The biggest decline in the history of the cotton industry. The reasons are well known in the market. Aspects of the Chinese cotton policy and the Chinese stocks determined the discussion. The cotton market share will decline further. Nevertheless, the actual consumption increases.  Demand will exceed production in the coming season. The cotton trade is gaining momentum worldwide because the textile industry is growing, e.g. in Bangladesh and Vietnam. Cotton has also gained in desirability, both in the course of the sustainability debate, as well as with regard to the increased use in technical textiles.

Considering integrated supply chains, does it make sense to look at the cotton industry without context?

Not at all: The cotton industry is part of a dynamically changing textile and fashion industry, which is increasingly fast-paced and digitalised. Competition with synthetic fibres remains a key factor but this is gaining a new dimension from the current debate over the pollution of our oceans with plastic.

Sustainability is still a dominant topic in the public arena, even though it is less likely to be reflected in consumers’ actual buying behaviour. In this context, we must also mention the demands for greater transparency. Traceability across the entire textile chain, from raw cotton through processing to the retail spaces, is a major topic in both research and within the industry.

What were the main fields of action for the Bremen Cotton Exchange?

One of our most important tasks is the arbitration function in international cotton trade. Through arbitrages and quality checks in the network with ICA Bremen we ensure compliant trading. Many other international network partners, with whom we maintain a regular exchange at the working level, such as the ICAC, the ICA, the ITMF or the CICCA network, also contribute to this.

At the national level, we should mention here the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. Here, the Cotton Exchange is bringing in its expertise and experience in the natural fibre sector to achieve social, environmental and economic improvements along the entire textile supply chain.

Our technical training on cotton-related topics enjoys great popularity, often in cooperation with other partners such as the DITF Denkendorf and the Fibre Institute Bremen (FIBRE). We also have a research collaboration with FIBRE with the aim of developing new directions of use for cotton.

What do you see as a highlight?

In addition to all these varied tasks, it was the Bremen Cotton Conference this year that was particularly noteworthy for me. We managed to attract far more than 500 participants to the conference. For these few days, Bremen was the centre of the global cotton industry. A high-quality programme, the inclusion in the Cotton Week, among other things with the new event “Sustain”, as well as outstanding speakers made this conference a great success.

Where is the Bremen Cotton Exchange today?

The Cotton Exchange is and remains a reliable service provider for its members. With our expertise, we support and advise cotton companies and organisations worldwide. We represent our members at national and international conferences, as well as in political affairs. Our authority and know-how are also in demand for partners outside our membership. Many years of experience, practical knowledge and a large international network are resources from which all our members benefit.

What role did active communication play?

A regular exchange and good networking is the basis of our work. Within the industry, we achieve this by providing essential and regular information through the Bremen Cotton Report and the Annual Report. In recent years, we have promoted the opening up of our communications to the outside world. This is reflected in our active public relations, as well as our social media channels or the first “Sustain” event this year. The goal of all these activities is to strengthen the perception of cotton as the most important natural fibre.

As a cotton trader operating in Shanghai, how do you see the market development in the future?

As the second largest producer of cotton and the largest cotton processing country, China is more important than ever. In recent years, the sale of the Chinese state reserves has shaped the market. These have now been reduced, so there will probably be a turnaround this year. China will have to give up its restrictive import policy to further support its textile industry. The tensions between China and the US are an uncertain factor in this context, which can lead to some pressures within in the cotton market. Here, time will show which dynamics come out of these unpredictabilities.

Thank you for the interview.

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