By Mark Lange
For 45 years, the biennial COTTON USA Orientation Tour has been extremely valuable in helping Cotton Council International (the National Cotton Council’s international division) in its mission of keeping the global pipeline filled with U.S. raw cotton exports.
Just how important is the Orientation Tour?
The Orientation Tour still plays a highly relevant role in the shipment of millions of U.S. cotton bales around the world. Since 1968, the Tour has enabled nearly 900 textile executives from more than 60 countries to tour the U.S. Cotton Belt where they have: 1) gained greater awareness of U.S. cotton types/qualities and marketing practices and 2) enhanced their relationships with U.S. exporters. It also ensures that the younger executives from these long-time overseas mill customers are introduced to U.S. cotton, and that healthy co-nnections are initiated and developed with newly emerging world markets. These tours have led many foreign textile manufacturers to develop an appreciation for U.S. cotton fiber quality and furthered the U.S. cotton industry’s reputation as a reliable supplier. The tour also continues to be an excellent vehicle for helping U.S. cotton capture additional market share overseas. The overseas textile firms represented on the last four tours (including this year’s tour) collectively have consumed an annual average of 1.03 million U.S. bales.
Post-tour evaluations consistently indicate that 100 percent of the participants who responded believed the tours were well worth their time and expense. Cotton quality, gin visits, meetings with local associations and production methods were some of the most popular information sources. All participants who responded also agreed that their understanding and knowledge of the U.S. cotton industry increased substantially as a direct result of the tours.
What about the 2013 Tour?
Textile executives representing 18 countries toured the Cotton Belt in late September. The 34 participants represented 28 individual companies in Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela and Vietnam. Those companies are expected to consume about 3.2 million bales in 2013 while U.S. cotton exports to those companies are estimated at about one million bales. The represented countries consume about 93 million bales per year, which represents about 75 percent of the world’s consumption. The countries import about 31 million bales annually or about 85 percent of the world’s total cotton imports.
The 2013 Orientation Tour participants visited a cotton farm and gin in the Mississippi Delta as well as cotton farms in West Texas, observed cotton research in North Carolina and toured USDA’s cotton classing headquarters in Memphis. They met with U.S. exporters and grower organizations in the four Cotton Belt regions and received briefings from the NCC, CCI, Cotton Incorporated, American Cotton Shippers Association, AMCOT, Plains Cotton Growers, Texas Cotton Association, Lubbock Cotton Exchange, Western Cotton Shippers Association, San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton Growers Association and Supima. Initial response from last month’s tour again indicated participants’ overwhelming enthusiasm for U.S. cotton – a truly positive situation for our export-reliant industry.
Mark Lange is the president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.