U.S. cotton producers are expected to plant less than 10 million acres of cotton, or nearly 1.5 million less than last year, as prices continue to be depressed by China’s huge reserves and loss of market share to synthetic fibers.
Ten years ago it would have been difficult for anyone to imagine cotton arriving at this juncture – U.S. retailers importing more and more synthetic fiber-rich garments while growers in states like Louisiana and Mississippi were planting more acres of corn than cotton.
“Between 1986 and 2006 the use of cotton in the U.S. at the consumer level more than doubled,” says J. Berrye Worsham, president and CEO of Cary, N.C.-based Cotton Incorporated. “We went from about 10 million bale equivalents of cotton demand to more than 22 million bales by the 2006-2007 marketing year.
“They kind of stabilized there, and then something happened in 2008. That was the gobal recession, the meltdown we had economically, which took a huge toll on the retail business for clothing and particularly cotton.”
Worsham has delivered this message in a number of venues during the winter and spring months. On this particular occasion he was speaking at one of the producer orientation tours that Cotton Incorporated hosts each year for interested growers.
As a result of the recession and the unusual supply-demand problems that followed, cotton usage in the U.S.; i.e., the amount of cotton that is imported into the U.S. in fabrics spun from U.S cotton or produced by U.S. textile mills, fell to 17-million-bale equivalents and has remained there most of the years since.
“If you were to look at this worldwide, it would remain the same,” said Worsham. “We’ve had a drop in demand globally from about 120 million bales to a little over 110 million bales or so. That is significant because the price of cotton is going to be a function of how much cotton we use versus how much cotton we produce.”
Currently, the world’s cotton farmers can produce about 120 million bales of cotton annually with not much price incentive, he noted. “You have countries like India, Pakistan and others that are going to grow cotton even if prices are low.”
For more on the cotton market situation, visit http://www.cottoninc.com/corporate/Market-Data/MonthlyEconomicLetter/