Weaker global demand reinforces need to create new opportunities

• By Seshadri Ramkumar •

Finding new markets and applications is vital for the global cotton sector.

With the commencement of harvest in the High Plains of Texas, stakeholders of this important sector gathered Oct. 18 at the Lubbock, Texas-based Plains Cotton Growers Inc.

cotton contamination
Growers have responded to miller and spinner complaints about plastic contamination with a renewed diligence — photo courtesy Cotton Incorporated

The yield may not be a bumper as expected due to the hot July and August months in the High Plains of Texas. Hot summer days affected the yield particularly in the dryland areas, where half a bale per acre seems to be the average yield. Weather patterns this summer showed there were 43 days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which influenced the blooming, according to discussions among cotton producers.

Cotton supply is above the demand, which emphasizes the need to create new opportunities.

“It’s demand that matters. We are not seeing demand increase worldwide,” said Steve Verett, Plains Cotton Growers CEO.

Suresh Kotak, cotton industry leader from Mumbai, India, shared the same viewpoint a few years back, which highlights the pressure on the sector for creating added value.

Although, the ongoing trade war between the United States and China has certainly put a dent in the market, China may not alone provide some respite, given the supply situation. Price of beans need to be watched, said Darren Hudson, professor of agricultural economics at Texas Tech University.

As the price of beans increases, a shift to beans will vacate some cotton acres, which could bring the supply down. This again depends on a resolution of the ongoing trade situation with China, a major soybean importer.

The need to develop new cotton products is felt by spinners as well. Particularly in India, there is excess spinning capacity, which happened in the recent years. Increasing quality and productivity without increasing spindles should offer some quick solution, according to Shanmugam Velmurugan, general manager of Jayalakshmi Textiles, a 70,000-ring spindle spinning mill in Aruppukkottai, India.

The quality of cotton will be a key contributor toward high quality yarns with less contamination. Exporting countries like the United States are paying attention to plastic contamination, a worthy effort that is well received by importers.

With about 24,000 bales (480 pounds each) classed so far in the Lubbock classing office, quality factors, such as micronaire, seem to be good. It will be interesting to watch how the staple grades evolve, again due to very hot summer days.

Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar is a professor in the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas. He may be reached at s.ramkumar@ttu.edu.

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