The National Cotton Council (NCC) continuously monitors U.S. cotton flow because it is imperative that the industry maintain its hard earned reputation as a reliable supplier of quality fiber to the global marketplace.
How is this being done?
U.S. warehouses are in the midst of receiving the bulk of this season’s harvest, and the NCC is urging all of them to comply with the minimum shipping standard in the USDA Commodity Credit Corp.’s Cotton Storage Agreement. That agreement stipulates that warehouses must 1) ship, if requested, at least 4.5 percent of their licensed or effective capacity each week and 2) submit shipped and bales made available for shipment (BMAS) reports each week. The NCC believes this accountability is necessary for those involved in storing and shipping cotton – because it helps ensure U.S. cotton reaches textile mills in a timely fashion.
Another step aimed at improving this flow was taken two years ago when a NCC Cotton Flow Committee recommendation provided USDA with the ability to see shipping order scheduling exchanges between merchants and warehouses. This helps determine if reported shipping activity matches requested activity. The Committee has been encouraged by some warehouses’ and merchants’ increased use of EWR’s Shipping Order Update (SOU) function, also known as Batch 23 files. (See www.cotton.org/tech/flow/upload/B23_USO_FactSheet.pdf) Use of these electronic submissions helps reduce backlogs and free up valuable warehouse resources to accommodate additional shipping order bookings.
Another goal will be achieved when the majority of merchants’ shipping orders and early shipping orders contain requested load dates – a step the NCC strongly encourages. Basically, EWR Inc.’s enhanced SOU function allows USDA to review an audit trail of requested shipping dates, compared to the warehouse’s BMAS data. For most of 2016, U.S. cotton warehouses’ filing of those BMAS reports has been strong but the NCC urges warehouses to remain diligent.
What about bale bag and tie codes?
Another enhancement to cotton flow was the addition of a bag and tie code table to the “Official Tare Weights” section of the 2016 Specifications for Cotton Bale Packaging Materials. Use of these codes enables merchants to verify the bales’ tare weights and better respond to textile mills’ preferences.
Warehouses are encouraged to use these codes when creating electronic warehouse receipts. The codes can be found at www.cotton.org/tech/bale/specs/tare-weights.cfm. Since their introduction in the 1990s, electronic warehouse receipts had a two-character field reserved for a bag code. This field was recently split into two columns by the dominant electronic warehouse receipt provider, EWR Inc., so that the tie type also could be included on the receipt. Because this additional piece of information is important to most receipt holders, software vendors are being urged to make sure software updates for gins, warehouses and shippers accommodate the suggested bag and tie type fields.
Another flow enhancement can be attributed to the acceptance of packaging innovations such as polyester strapping. This product has allowed gins to increase the productivity of their automated bale strapping systems, reduce transportation costs through lighter tare weights and improve worker safety.
Gary Adams is president/chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming magazine page.