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Cotton Board gazing ball 'cloudy'

"U.S. trade policy revisions will affect the rate of change in the world textile industry," says Bill Crawford, president of the Cotton Board. "But we're not certain what those changes will be. Consequently, we have to be flexible and adapt to change."

Crawford said learning to adapt to changing trade environments will be part of the Cotton Board's strategic plan. He outlined that plan during the organization's recent joint annual meeting with The Cotton Foundation and the American Cotton Producers in Corpus Christi.

Crawford said the industry expects to see major growth in textile manufacturing from both China and India.

He said the U.S. cotton industry must improve education efforts with foreign mills to maintain market share. "We have to teach them about U.S. cotton," he said. "Many do not know the value of our cotton."

HVI and EFS system software provide significant advantages in the world market for the U.S. cotton industry, Crawford said. "No other country has anything like this system, but others are working on it."

He said partnerships between the U.S. textile industry and foreign textile firms will be crucial to help transition from a domestic to a global market.

He said that even with contentious trade issues, cotton's primary competitor remains synthetic fibers. "Synthetics have eroded cotton's global market share. Cotton consumption outside the United States has declined."

Crawford said the industry must "hold onto its share of U.S. markets. U.S. consumption has been the engine driving increased use of cotton. The growth has occurred here."

But the export market will be critical. "We have to continue to export a lot of cotton and that's where our HVI and EFS systems will be key."

He said quality improvement will improve demand for U.S. cotton. "We support industry initiatives for breeding programs for quality improvement."

Crawford also said that better communications will strengthen the industry. "Communicating from the Cotton Board to producers and importers is critical," he said, "to keep everyone aware of changes in the industrial landscape."

He said the emphasis on exports may result in a system where the industry needs to assure that imported textiles come from raw product from the United States.

"And we need to continue to find areas of cooperation with Cotton Incorporated and the National Cotton Council."

John Pucheu, Cotton Board chairman, said the board's mandate is to "evaluate implications for the cotton industry." One big concern, he said, is China. "Only 3 percent of China's agricultural land is devoted to cotton," he said. "Their potential to produce cotton is significant."

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