For those who were not born in the 2000s, anticipating what the new millennium would be, and even more so, the third decade of it, was a science fiction dream. We imagined cars flying, holidays on other planets, and teleportation. Not everything has been possible until now, but what we see in Brazilian cotton farms today, and even better, what we don't see - because it happens in the realm of genes, microchips and nanotechnology -, many of the creative minds of the past failed to foresee.
Among all agricultural crops, cotton is one of the most "futuristic". The people from the countryside got used to seeing those giant robots picking the plume, and distributing seeds, fertilizers and pesticides with impressive precision, to make every investment worth it, and to preserve the environmental, human and financial resources to the maximum. production. But every time we take people from the city to see a harvest up close, what we see are eyes of amazement and enchantment. The Brazilian cotton grower invests in technology like no other and, without government subsidies, guided by the concept of sustainability, is redefining the world cotton map.
I took over Abrapa the year the association completed two decades. At the beginning of the millennium, which coincides with the creation of the entity, we imported cotton. Our reputation was not good at home or abroad, when it came to quality and credibility. Last year, we produced almost three million tons of plume, making us the third largest producer in the world and the second largest exporter, behind only the United States, which we must overcome soon. In 1.6 million hectares of crops, Brazil harvested an average of 1.77 thousand kilos of plume per hectare, a number without a competitor in the world, when talking about non-irrigated plantation.
In exports, the country should reach two million tons of cotton shipped this year, produced in the past harvest. Is very. It is the result of technology and know-how, and of a strategic thinking that applies to farms, state associations and Abrapa. The latter, listening to the cotton grower, the market and - increasingly - the final consumer, has invested in the acquisition and production of knowledge, through programs with great results for the sector. Thanks to this, it is consolidated as one of the most organized, agglutinating and avant-garde agribusiness class entities.
Abrapa's work takes place in four main lines: quality, traceability, sustainability and marketing. Four pillars that support our position as a major player in the market. To reach the fourth pillar, marketing, we had to invest heavily in the first three. Now, more than ever, it is time to promote our fiber in the world. We have an excellent and increasingly desirable product for the industry; we produce on a sustainable basis from an environmental, social and economic point of view, attested by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which in Brazil operates as a benchmark with our Responsible Brazilian Cotton (ABR) program. In addition, we are reliable in the results of instrumental fiber analysis, thanks to the Standard Brasil HVI (SBRHVI) program, which includes the modern and internationally classified Brazilian Reference Center for Cotton Analysis (CBRA).
We also have scale in production. And, as we were able to prove in this harvest, flow capacity. From now on, instead of exporters in the second semester, we will supply the product in the twelve months, in the quantity and quality that the market demands, and arriving at its destination at the right time. What changes, is that if before the market for all cotton exported by Brazil was taken for granted, now we have to try harder to sell, competing for new customers and, mainly, keeping the ones we already have. Reinforce the positive attributes of our product, strengthening the image and identity of Brazilian cotton, not only as a commodity, but as a "brand".
For that, we must dare. At the end of last year, Abrapa and the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) signed an agreement for the execution of a Sectorial Project to implement, in a structured and integrated way, an international promotion plan for the sector, which includes the opening of an Abrapa office in Asia. The project's objective is to contribute to making Brazil the world's largest cotton exporter by 2030. Today Asia represents 98% of our customers, which demands a strong institutional presence in this territory. As you can see, 2020 is the present, but it promises to be a decisive year for the future of Brazilian cotton.