Bangladesh’s cotton import will creep up to 7.1 million bales in 2017-18, further consolidating its position as the world’s largest importer of the fibre, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.In 2016-17, 7 million bales are expected to be imported. One bale equals 480 pounds or 218 kg, and the cotton year begins on August 1 and ends on July 31.Local growers can only supply less than 3 percent of yearly demand, leading to the imports worth over $3 billion.Bangladesh has overtaken China after the latter stopped sourcing for having ample stocks of its own.The demand for the natural fibre is on the rise in Bangladesh as it is the only country that is still mainly dependent on raw cotton for making yarns and fabrics.The other countries have shifted to other manmade fibres like filament, polyesters and viscose, as a result of which the global consumption of cotton is on the decline in recent years. Currently, the ratio of cotton and manmade fibre use is 28:72 worldwide, with a pronounced tilt towards artificial fibres, due to its lower price, improved functionality and ease of use, according to International Textile Manufacturers Federation.However, the ratio is not applicable in Bangladesh yet as more than 90 percent of the yarns and fabrics are made from natural cotton in the country.“We are upbeat about the future trend as cotton consumption is rising from the spinners’ end,” said Mehdi Ali, general secretary of the Bangladesh Cotton Association, adding that the demand for both yarn and fabrics is increasing every year. The over 430 local spinning mills can supply nearly 90 percent of the yarn for the knitwear sector and 40 percent of the fabrics needed by the woven sector for higher consumption of cotton.“Many may think that the recent slowdown in garment export will have a negative impact on cotton consumption but that is not true.”Garment shipments have been declining in value but the volumes are increasing, he said. Since the volume is increasing, so is cotton consumption.By the end of 2020, cotton consumption in Bangladesh will hit 7.9 million bales, Ali said.Currently, Bangladesh imports 55 percent of its demand for cotton from India, thanks to favourable prices, geographical proximity, shorter lead time and the quality of the fibre.“We are also looking for alternative destinations as it is not right to depend too much on one country,” Ali said, citing Africa, Australia and the US as the other options that are being looked at.This month’s USDA report mentioned of higher forecasts for both global production and mill use in the upcoming 2017-18 crop year.There would be additional harvest of 1.5 million bales from previously forecasted 113.2 to 114.7 million, according to Cotton Incorporated. The rise in the global production figure was primarily a result of heightened expectations of Pakistan, China and Mexico. Last week, cotton traded between 72 cents per pound and 73.2 cents per pound in the future market.