East and Southeast Asian countries are not only the largest cotton producers, they also account for the bulk of the worldwide textile industry.
China is the leader in terms of processed cotton fiber with an estimated 54 million bales in 2008, followed by India (18.8 M), Pakistan (12.7 M) and Bangladesh (2.9 M). Some Latin-American countries such as Brazil (4.6 million bales), Mexico (1.9 M), and Argentina (0.9 M) have also developed a sizeable textile industry.
In African countries, the cotton industry has been facing structural difficulties for many years now, and many spinning and weaving mills have had to close down over the last two decades. This sector has therefore never reached any significant size in Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania being the two exceptions with 370,000 and 100,000 bales of processed cotton fiber respectively in 2008.
Over the last two decades, textile industries have been increasingly shifting from industrial to low-wage countries, a development that has led to the disappearance of most textile mills in Northern and Western Europe. Between 1988 and 2008, the British and Swiss cotton industries decreased by 90 percent (measured by the amount of cotton fibre being processed).
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