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Cotton imports grab more market

Use increases, but U.S. producers not sharing in gains While U.S. consumers still continue to purchase more cotton products, unfortunately more and more of their textile/apparel purchases are being satisfied by imports, says Mark Lange, director of economic services for the National Cotton Council.

Cotton's U.S. market share in 2000 is estimated at 41.8 percent, up marginally from 41.6 percent the previous year, he told delegates to the council's annual meeting at San Diego, Calif., and net domestic cotton consumption was 20.86 million bales, up 3.9 percent over 1999.

"Few consumer goods in the U.S. can boast this type of continuos expansion or annual rates of growth," he says. "The promotion programs of Cotton Incorporated have created the single largest market for cotton textile and apparel in the world."

But, he notes, "imported cotton products are satisfying an ever-growing share of that demand, growing from 14 million bales in 1999 to an estimated 15.9 million in 2000."

Retail consumption of domestically-manufactured cotton products dropped 18.1 percent.

Surge in imports Imports of cotton textile/apparel products now command a whopping 76.1 percent of the market share, Lange says.

This surge in imports had a significant impact on cotton use by U.S. mills - a 5.4 percent drop in 2000 over 1999. The strong U.S. dollar was also a contributing factor to the increasingly difficult position of the American textile industry.

There is, however, a bit of positive news, in that a fair amount of the cotton used in the imports is of U.S. origin.

"The majority of products from the Caribbean Basin and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries are made from U.S. cotton or cotton products," Lange notes.

And some imports from Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia, and Brazil have significant U.S. raw cotton content.

"When we account for U.S. cotton and cotton products returning to this country, total foreign cotton entering the U.S. drops to about 10 million bales, rather than the gross import figure of 15.9 million bales."

Of the estimates 10 million bales of truly foreign cotton imports, approximately 3-million-bale equivalents come from Pakistan, China, and India, Lange points out.

"In fact, outside of NAFTA and the Caribbean Basin, Pakistan is the fastest growing and the single largest supplier of imports to the U.S., landing an estimated 1.24-million-bale equivalents of cotton textile products. Just three years ago, their imports totaled only 670,000-bale equivalents."

Looking at U.S. exports of cotton textile/apparel products, Lange says the numbers were up in 2000 and "substantially larger increases are expected in the next several years with the full realization of Caribbean Basin Initiative benefits."

U.S. exports of cotton products hit 5-million-bale equivalents in 2000, with over 90 percent headed for U.S. trade partners in NAFTA and CBI countries.

"These trade agreements are absolutely essential to the continued survival of the U.S. textile industry in the face of the greater access by imports to the U.S. market under World Trade Organization rules," Lange says.

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