Laboratorios HVI, ICA e ICA Bremen

Presentación del Dr. Robert Jiang, Gerente de Operaciones y Desarrollos del ICA, acerca de Laboratorios HVI en el mundo, funcionamiento del ICA e ICA Bremen, en el marco del Día Mundial del Algodón.

Introduction to ICA and ICA Bremen

May I first introduce the ICA International Cotton Association and ICA Bremen. The ICA is the world’s leading trade association for the international raw cotton trade. Its prime purpose is to protect the legitimate interests of all those who trade cotton, whether buyer or seller. It serves to create a smooth, orderly global trading environment through upholding the sanctity of contract and promoting universal understanding of good trading practices. Operating on a non-profit basis, the ICA publishes a set of Bylaws and Rules which are used by the majority of the global cotton trade, and provides services in the field of quality and technical arbitration, training, trade and networking events, as well as cotton fibre testing and research through ICA Bremen. ICA’s membership covers nearly all the sectors of the cotton supply chain, from growers, ginners, merchants, controllers, to spinners. In addition, it also comprises industries affiliated to cotton, such as banks, insurance companies etc.

Created in 2011, ICA Bremen is a joint venture of ICA and BBB Bremer Baumwollboerse, designed to provide an impartial, independent testing service for the global cotton industry. Being an ‘International Centre of Excellence’ for cotton testing, research, quality training and certification, it provides a range of services pertinent to the industry, including the

  • International Laboratory Certification Programme
  • Laboratory Testing and Quality Arbitration
  • Round Trials for laboratories worldwide
  • Cotton Grade Standards which cover nearly all the cotton varieties in the world
  • Research and Development
  • Training Course
  • Quality Expert Certification, and
  • Consultancy and Cotton Quality Information

HVI testing

Since the 1990’s, instrument testing, primarily HVI testing, has been implemented in many cotton growing and consuming countries. The technology has been improved and operations more automated. We have seen that extensive applications of HVI takes place in the USA, Australia, China, Brazil and other countries.

There are many advantages for different sectors to make use of this technology. By understanding the individual parameters of their cotton,

  • For spinners, they can find exactly what cotton they are buying, optimise the cotton mixing, set up the machine settings accordingly, and project the characteristics of produced yarns.
  • For producers, they can tailor their cotton to appropriate markets, seek improved seed and ginning development, conduct more rigorous quality control, and may even be able to maximise the price potential of their products. In essence, both the sellers and the buyers have a more transparent, clear insight into their cotton specifications.
  • For any quality disputes in the cotton trade, the instrument testing presents a mechanical, objective way to analyse any quality deficiency and helps to reach a conclusion which is satisfactory and fair to both parties. This removes any element of human judgement which for many years, have been provided by experienced cotton classers who must have accumulated much experience through many years’ participation in the cotton industry. The shortage of qualified, experienced cotton classers would exacerbate the difficulty in manual classing in the recent years. To fill this vacuum for future and help to alleviate this problem, the ICA Bremen is on the verge of establishing the first group of ICA Bremen international ‘Quality Experts’ based on a set of defined criteria.

Certification purpose

As there are so many HVI testing laboratories, their standards of quality assurance vary. International standards, such as 9001, 17025 focus on generic areas. To help the industry with an agreed, achievable standard, ICA Bremen, in cooperation with industry partners including the USDA, established the ICA Bremen Laboratory Certification Programme. Its purpose is clear and straightforward, that is to establish a list of laboratories located worldwide which meet a pre-defined standard of quality assurance so that they can be used to provide independent, accurate reports on key cotton quality parameters, and offer an improved testing service to the whole cotton industry. The certification programme is open to all industry participants, including cotton controllers, spinners, merchants, growers and other sectors. Being certified provides additional stimulus for a laboratory to consistently maintain its standard. The certification procedure comprises both the documentation and the onsite auditing. Quality assurance manual and records are reviewed on an annual basis, while an onsite auditing is carried out every three years.

The certification criteria consist of eight modules, covering laboratory specification and conditioning, instrument and maintenance, calibration and internal verification, testing procedure and samples, external verification, quality management, human resources and onsite inspection. By fulfilling these criteria, a laboratory is demonstrating to the global cotton industry that it has not only focused on, but also maintained a standard quality assurance programme in its operation throughout the testing process. It provides an added assurance and confidence to its customers.

Certified laboratories

To date, the laboratories certified spread across diverse locations and different continents, in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Greece, South Africa, Spain and USA. Naturally, we maintain a close relationship and cooperation between all these laboratories and ICA Bremen. We share information relating to instrument testing, uphold good practices in the field of quality assessment, and improve the cotton standards.

Quality Description in Contracts

With the advent of the HVI technology, there is a gradual trend that HVI specifications are used in the contractual agreement between the buyers and the sellers. These specifications give clarity and make it more convenient to resolve disputes simply by testing the samples in, preferably, an ICA Bremen Certified Laboratory. Once the test results are obtained by the parties, they can then apply the value differences in the International Value Differences Circular to calculate the allowances, therefore avoiding potential lengthy negotiations or resorting to arbitration.

If however, the quality is based on a Type sample, or descriptions other than the Universal Standards descriptions, then cotton classers are still required to perform the classification of the samples drawn and give their judgement. In some cases, the parties may still agree to convert the Type sample or descriptions to the Universal Standards descriptions for a speedy, fair judgement. The arbitrators will rely on the parties’ agreement to select the most appropriate method to solve the dispute.

Successful, Smooth Resolution of Disputes

As mentioned earlier on, the ICA and ICA Bremen strive to create a smooth trading environment and to support this, provide an arbitration service for the trade. We encourage the trading partners to resolve any potential trade issues amicably, failing which, either party can still proceed with arbitration. To boost the expertise of quality assessment and arbitration, ICA Bremen has already launched an initiative of the international Quality Expert programme. I believe the expertise contained in the pool of Quality Experts will benefit and help the industry in both instrument testing and manual classing.

To facilitate the resolution of quality disputes, the ICA Value Differences Committee meets every four weeks or more often, and publishes a value differences circular, which provides the value differences in cent points for the respective grades, staple length, micronaire and strength in grams per tex. In response to the industry’s request, a multiplier system is implemented to produce realistic allowances in the case of significant grade and staple deficiency.

APPA visit

Over a year ago, I had the pleasure of visiting APPA and Santa Fe. I witnessed and was impressed by the concerted effort of APPA, INTI, cotton growers, ginners and other participants, and the Santa Fe government in their support of improving the production process, pressing forward the research, and providing encouraging policies for the cotton production industry.

My discussion with APPA officials and Nicolas Buyatti, director of APPA laboratory, reinforced my feeling and understanding. Nicolas put a lot of effort into enhancing the laboratory testing standard, with many hardware and software improvisations. The AMS air management system was totally redesigned and implemented. Well worth noting is that the laboratory has performed particularly well in one of the key certification criteria, CSITC round trials. To complete all aspects of the certification, a new quality assurance manual is currently being set up, together with the quality records. I trust that with all these measures in place, the laboratory will be under efficient, effective management, and ready for the document assessment and an onsite audit. Thank you Nicolas for your great effort. I do hope the APPA laboratory will stand at the forefront of the world cotton testing and plays an important role in South America and beyond.

ICA and ICA Bremen community

Having briefly reviewed various matters on quality, I would take this opportunity to welcome you to join the community of ICA and ICA Bremen and to participate in their activities. One thing I would like to highlight is, the attention to quality should be encapsulated in all companies’ risk management and safe trading strategy. It will be to any company’s interest and advantage to keep well updated with the latest Bylaws and Rules, arbitration procedure, understanding good trading practices and be familiar with all quality issues. ICA and ICA Bremen would like to hear from you any suggestions, recommendations, and improvements. And you are most welcome to join this year’s ICA online virtual annual event to be held on 28-29 October.