Q&A INTERVIEW -
What’s the current status of the cottonseed industry going into the 2008 crop season?
We’re facing a number of challenges – some specific to cottonseed crushers and some we all are facing. First, energy and fuel costs are forcing everyone to find innovative ways to become more efficient, and cottonseed plants are certainly no different.
Second, transportation plays such a significant role in moving cottonseed and cottonseed products that the availability of affordable rail and trucking options is creating some real issues. Third, interest in biofuels and the resulting shift in acreage have really cut into cottonseed supplies.
What impact has the decline in cottonseed supplies had on the industry?
Available cottonseed supplies have fallen from 8.8 million tons two years ago to just over 7.0 million tons this year. But crushings, as a percent of total supplies, have held steady at about 35 to 36 percent. Whole seed feeding has held steady at between 50 and 55 percent, while cottonseed exports, most notably to Mexico, have fallen off.
Is the awareness level increasing on the healthy benefits of cottonseed oil?
NCPA began its cottonseed oil promotion program to take advantage of that awareness. Once New York City banned trans fats in 1996, food service operators and food manufacturers have been scrambling to re-formulate their recipes and ingredients to produce trans-fat free products, and cottonseed oil was a big winner in that aspect. Its unique fatty acid profile makes it a perfect fit, whether as an ingredient or as a blend in salad dressing or cooking oils.
How has the public relations campaign for cottonseed succeeded in the past year?
The Cottonseed Oil Comeback Tour was launched to highlight companies that have made the successful switch to trans-fat free products with cottonseed oil. We’ve been on a virtual road trip across the United States, starting in the Northeast at UTZ Potato Chips, in Hanover, Pa. This company fries its chips in cottonseed oil. Then we moved on to the Minneapolis-based Buca di Bepp Italian food chain, which switched to a cottonseed/canola blend for a trans-fat free cooking oil.
We also stopped at the legendary Riversmith’s Catfish & Chicken restaurant in Lubbock, Texas, which switched to a 100 percent cottonseed cooking oil. We made stops in Califor-nia and Oregon and wrapped up the tour by hitting a home run for the cottonseed industry at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. The team’s concessionaire, Center-plate, also switched to a cottonseed oil blend for its trans-fat free solution.
Do farmers have an appreciation for how cottonseed and its many by-products affect the economy today?
Many are likely aware of the more obvious uses – cottonseed oil for cooking, cottonseed meal and hulls for beef and dairy cattle, and cottonseed linters for cotton linter pulp. But many other uses are not as obvious but still provide producers with a return on their cottonseed. Cottonseed meal, for example, is an excellent slow-release nitrogen fertilizer and is heralded by gardeners as very effective on roses and azaleas. It is also prized by mushroom growers as a key ingredient in the special soils of mushroom farms.
Cottonseed hulls are used as ingredients in drilling mud during oil exploration, a bright spot to the increase in oil prices. Cotton linters have long been used in fine writing papers, but are also used as a component in films that cover large screen televisions.
Despite these volatile times, what’s the outlook for cottonseed and its ability to increase market share?
Cottonseed oil is certainly holding its own within the trans-fat free market segment, and the outlook remains quite optimistic. One measure by USDA shows cottonseed oil used in the salad and cooking oils category jumping from around 290 million pounds three years ago to an estimated 550 million pounds when all this data is collected for 2007. Cottonseed meal is also in a great position, as prices of many other protein feed ingredients inch upward. The NCPA is proud to be part of the cottonseed industry that is working to enhance the value of cotton and the return to producers.
For more information
about the National Cottonseed Products Association, call (901) 682-0800
or go to www.cottonseed.com.