The Association was founded in 1902 in order to promote the growth and cultivation of cotton within the British Empire. The background to the formation of the movement was the difficult economic position of the Lancashire Cotton industry which was particularly dependent on the United States for its supply of raw cotton. World demand for cotton exceeded the available supplies, and many of the mills in Lancashire introduced short time for their employees. Concerns about the economic future of the industry were expressed in January 1901 at the annual dinner of the Oldham Chamber of Commerce and, as a result, a committee was appointed to investigate the possibility of establishing new cotton growing areas in other countries, particularly in the British Empire. In February 1902 a representative meeting of Chambers of Commerce and other interested trade and manufacturing associations was held at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, at which the Report of the committee was adopted. At a subsequent meeting in June, the British Cotton Growing Association was officially inaugurated with a guarantee fund of 50, 000 pounds, and consignments of seed, machinery and cotton experts were despatched to different countries to undertake pioneering work and conduct experiments. In 1904 the Association was granted a Royal Charter and was reconstituted with a capital of 500, 000 pounds so as to ensure adequate funding for the extension and success of its operations.
In the early years, up to the First World War, the work of the Association was still largely experimental; but it soon became apparent that if its chief objective to extend sources of cotton supply was to be achieved, the Association's role also needed to be more interventionist. By 1920, in addition to supplying seed, the Association was supplying machinery, buildings and equipment, contributing to the finance of ginneries, acting as agents for the sale of crops, and guaranteeing the prices. Its area of work extended to India, the Gold Coast, and Nigeria in west Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, Nyasaland and Rhodesia in central and East Africa, South Africa, Iraq, Australia and the West Indies. The Association was not established as a profit making concern and its success owes much to the fact that it represented not just the cotton manufacturers but other interested parties including the labour organisations. In 1973 the Association and its ginning facilities were acquired bu Ralli International Ltd, a firm of Liverpool cotton traders, and the Association moved from Manchester to Liverpool. In 1980 Ralli was taken over by Cargill and the Association was subsequently incorporated into Cargill Technical Services Ltd.
Reference: Phil Bassett, The University of Birmingham Research Libraries Bulletin (Number 7, Spring 2000).