Research and other investigations by Matthew Niederhauser out of Beijing, China.

Giant Piles of Cotton: Xinjiang’s Lucrative Industry

Factory workers stand atop a huge pile of cotton at a processing plant in Xinjiang.

During a trip to Xinjiang last year, I was lucky enough to visit an industrial cotton farm and the attached processing plants. Xinjiang is the largest cotton-producing province in China, and China is the largest cotton-producing country on the planet. Needless to say the sheer amount of cotton being moved through these processing plants blew me away. Workers incessantly tossed and shifted around giant piles of cotton the size of houses before it all got sucked up into seed-removing machines that lined the corridors of the processing plants. Even the seeds removed from the cotton would form mountainous heaps, spirited away by specially designed conveyer belts outside the processing plants. Last year was also a tumultuous time for the cotton industry in general. Prices for cotton rose almost 80% after flooding in Pakistan and inclement weather in China and India ruined many crops. Now various clothing companies are switching to synthetic blends to keep costs down. The processing plants in Xinjiang might be working overtime, but it probably won’t help the already outrageous prices people pay for jeans these days.

Intricate conveyer belt systems deposit cotton seeds around a cotton processing plant in Xinjiang.

A factory worker moves around large piles of cotton outside the processing plant in Xinjiang.A cotton picker inspects plants in a giant field in Xinjiang.Factory workers move cotton into a chute that sucks it into a processing plant.

Factory workers move cotton off the bed of a truck at a cotton processing plant in Xinjiang.A factory worker inspects cotton seeds at a cotton processing plant in Xinjiang.A cotton farmer pulls up to a cotton processing plant in Xinjiang.

Seed-removing machines line a cotton processing plant in Xinjiang.A factory worker lables cotton bales at a cotton processing plant in Xinjiang.Machinery in a cotton processing plant snakes around the room.

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4 Responses

  1. Great photos! I’ve driven by a few of the cotton-producing plants along the main highways, but I never got to see shots like this. It amazes me just how much cotton is really produced.

    March 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm

  2. Dee

    Were any workers wearing masks? Cotton fibers
    can cause havoc with the lungs.

    March 19, 2011 at 3:21 am

  3. Most of the workers wore masks, especially in the factories.

    March 20, 2011 at 11:46 pm

  4. JAK

    man, that is nice report. where is this plant in Xinjang? I am in Shnaghai and will be visiting Xinjang next week Is this plan in Hami?

    February 23, 2014 at 12:33 am

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