The International Cotton Institute has touched many young students in the past 17 years. Despite a varied curriculum that covers all aspects of cotton production and marketing, the topic of “quality” continues to be a major part of the message each year.
That was especially true this summer as 39 students from around the world participated in this prestigious school sponsored by the American Cotton Shippers Association.
Classes were once again conducted at the University of Memphis, and the full range of cotton topics was covered. The importance of fiber quality made a special impression on Charles Wang, assistant general manager of the Winnitex Group based in Hong Kong.
The privately owned company represents textile mills in China and exports finished products mainly to Europe and the United States. Wang, who is fluent in both Chinese and English, wanted to learn more about cotton quality when he began attending the classes in June.
The company owns some weaving and spinning operations, and he believed it was critical to learn more about quality from the time the cotton is planted in the spring until it is harvested and ginned in the fall.
Lots Of Information
What made his experience at the school beneficial this summer was being able to learn about quality from producers, merchants, Cotton Incorp-orated representatives and others who were guest lecturers at the school.
“I think it would take several years to learn what we were exposed to in eight weeks,” says Wang. “To be able to go to a farm and learn how the cotton plant begins and then see the finished product in the classing room and later at the mill was remarkable.”
Wang also wanted to gain additional knowledge about cotton’s volatile price swings this year. He says it is difficult for any mill to develop a budget when cotton prices reach such high levels.
“It’s a complicated issue, and I think I can understand both the mill and customer perspective on this,” says Wang. “My problem is when the price is high one day and low the next day. When mills don’t know what to expect, they will wait to make their purchases. That, in turn, slows down the economy for everybody.”
He was particularly impressed by U.S. cotton’s commitment to quality – especially when every bale is certified by USDA. That fact, coupled with the reality of being able to track a U.S. cotton bale’s origin, was a positive factor for Wang.
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Special Bond For Students
Like so many other students who have participated in this cotton school, Charles Wang has made some lifetime friendships. He says the camaraderie was genuine, and all students were helpful.
“Our group socialized, studied and went to class together,” he says. “It was a long eight weeks, and there was plenty of stress, but we helped each other, and it made the experience very special.”
Another aspect of the school that helped students handle the classwork was the presence of several industry mentors. These representatives were available to help students in the classroom and assist them with other special requests.
This year’s mentors included: Edson Abrao (Cargill Cotton), Sam Clay (Olam International), Ahmet Kunter (Allenberg Cotton), Amy Ives (Cargill Cotton), Meredith Frazer (Allenberg Cotton), Jim Nunn (Nunn Cotton) and John Stevens (ECOM).
Mentors helping in the Cotton Classing office at the school included: Keith Elzie (ECOM), Robert Mosby (Cargill Cotton), Willie Venter (Cargill Cotton) and Dickson Wang (Allenberg Cotton).
Jeff Johnson of Allenberg Cotton was the Mentor Director for the school. Bob Carmichael of Cargill Cotton was the Classing Room Director.
Total Commitment Exhibited
Bill Griffin, director of the International Cotton Institute for 17 consecutive years, says Wang’s experience this summer is an example of the students’ total commitment to learning more about all facets of the cotton industry.
“It was another excellent class, and it gives all of us a great sense of satisfaction in what we accomplished during the summer,” he says. “As I have said many times through the years, this is a win-win situation for all parties.”