Giant Piles of Cotton: Xinjiang’s Lucrative Industry
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.