What a difference a year makes. From a devastating ending to the 2009 crop, to sharp market increases in prices for 2010, the swing from one end of the pendulum to the other in a relatively short time makes for an interesting ride. The question before us is how do we sustain the momentum?
Since I do not proclaim to be clairvoyant, writing this column as a precursor to the 2011 season makes it quite challenging. However, the current environment for the U.S. cotton industry reminds me of the famous quote by Mark Twain. “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Characteristic of this great crop we love, the cotton industry arises to the challenges before it. While the last few years have been spent in the valley, the climb to a better view lies ahead. Prices continue to hold. Acreage is expected to increase in 2011. The demand for cotton, particularly U.S. cotton, is strengthening due to a world shortage.
I had the opportunity to attend the Sourcing USA Summit sponsored by Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated this past November. This meeting was well attended by global buyers and sellers. This is particularly important as roughly 77 percent of U.S. cotton is exported.
In casual conversation with several global buyers and textile manufacturers, it quickly became apparent that the United States is known for its quality cotton. While other countries are less committed or unable to consistently provide the world with quality cotton, the reputation of U.S. cotton worldwide is a given. These buyers have come to depend on that quality as well as a consistent supply to their markets.
Since 80 percent of the world is ring spun, length is now more important in breeding for the global market. Of all the clothing produced, three-quarters of that total is cotton. These statistics should place the U.S. cotton market in a favorable light.
While this month’s theme is “sustaining the momentum,” it is worth mentioning that many of the cotton buyers at the conference are also focused on “sustainability.” In this case, in response to consumers and their customer’s preferences, buyers want greater accountability and traceability of the cotton they use. This increased transparency will come at a cost, and conference participants and you as producers are rightfully concerned with the question of who will pay to make this information available to the global buyers.
This brings us back to the current cotton price. Whether today’s price represents a trend or at least a prolonged “spike,” it has many of us believing in the impossible. And, as American cotton farmers have demonstrated for decades, they will sustain the momentum by implementing technology and exceeding the expectations of their customers.
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