A New York judge has ruled on litigations involving Walmart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, for selling linens falsely labelled as “100 percent Egyptian cotton.” The complaints brought before the court alleges that Walmart knew the cotton was mislabeled as far back as 2016, while Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond knew for months.

Judge Vincent Briccetti on Monday agreed with claims that buyers nationwide overpaid for intentionally mislabeled cotton produced by Welspun India Ltd, one of the world’s largest textile manufacturers, which these consumers bought at these brands. In a 39-page decision, he ordered the retailers to face the lawsuit.

Cotton is Egypt’s most famous export, sought highly by makers of luxury bedding and clothing. Between 2011 and 2016, Egypt recorded a 100-year low in the quality of its cotton, leading to a dramatic government ban on all but the highest quality seeds. Farmers abandoned the crop, switching to rice. At the same time, suppliers abroad were touting “100% Long-staple Egyptian cotton,” having mixed lower grade lint into yarns and fabrics.

“When the manufacturers can write 100% Egyptian cotton, and everyone else does the same, why would he buy the actual Egyptian cotton?” Khaled Schuman, head of the Egyptian Cotton Association, the body that provides the official logo to suppliers of 100 percent Egyptian cotton, told Reuters.

This lawsuit, like the Target scandal in 2016 could increase universal market demand for the real Egyptian cotton. After Target Corp accused Welspun India of using cheaper material in 2016, retailers began to demand proof of those claiming to sell 100% cotton, proof they could only get from the Egyptian Cotton Association. As a result of this, Schuman’s association received an enormous number of official logo requests in 2016, with as many as twenty companies signing up to pay for the logo.

Egypt’s economy is expected to reach 6 percent growth by June 2019. This fresh litany of cotton-related lawsuits could increase interest in real cotton and help the country achieve that.   

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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