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Part III: Reclaiming the market for U.S. cotton

Cotton Incorporated President and CEO J. Berrye Worsham believes there are several keys to helping cotton stage a recovery from the situation the industry finds itself after years of a recession in the global economy, China’s building of huge reserve stocks and substitution of synthetic fibers for cotton.

Those include:

-Research and implementation aimed at maximizing cotton yields and minimizing input costs.

-Development of new chemistries or technologies that could improve cotton’s competitiveness in major end uses.

-Development of innovative fabrics and garments to convince manufacturing brands and retailers of cotton’s viability as a fabric.

-Promoting to consumers reasons why cotton is the better choice when they’re making clothing purchases.

At the same time China has been importing less cotton, many of the world’s garment makers are using less cotton in blends or in components of products. That’s putting increased pressure on Cotton Incorporated to come up with more innovations.

“Once a manufacturer makes a big move they don’t change much unless you give them to a big reason to go back,” said Worsham. “So just because the price of cotton has come down that doesn’t necessarily encourage brands and retailers to switch back.”

One of the most alarming trends is the decline in cotton’s share of the total fabric supplies sold in garments and in textile products. In recent years, the percentage share for cotton has dropped from a high of about 62 percent to around 52 percent today.

“So we’ve lost 10 points of share which is a big issue. That’s what we’re trying to deal with now with how to turn this around, given the price disadvantage we have now. We don’t want prices to go lower; that’s not the solution. We need the demand for cotton to increase, and we need some more sensible policies in China both on the polyester side and the cotton side.”

The dwindling numbers of acres of cotton in the U.S. in recent years are leading universities and some companies to curtail research on cotton.

Cotton Incorporated is trying to fill that gap, currently funding about 400 research projects across the country.

For more on the cotton market outlook, visit

TAGS: Outlook
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