Cheap US cotton, subsidized to the tune of US$3 billion a year, will cost China US$208 million in income and 720,000 jobs this year, Oxfam has claimed. The development and relief group said the influx of US cotton to China threatens to exclude millions of local farmers from the market. Cotton is the second most important cash crop in China after oil seeds and the most labor intensive, employing about 46.2 million. Since China joined the WTO in 2001, the volume of imported cotton from the US has surged 21 times in four years. This year, imports are expected to reach a record 3 million tonnes, almost half China's production of 6.3 million tonnes in 2004.
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