Thursday, April 18, 2024

Vitals for Cotton Sector

By Seshadri Ramkumar
Texas Tech University

Maintaining market share, enhancing consumer awareness and continuous investments in research and development are needed to advance the cotton sector.

Steve Verett, Executive Vice President of Lubbock, TX-based Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., captivated the audience in a speech last Thursday at Texas Tech University about the 2017 cotton crop and the industry overall.

As the talk was held in a conference room in the chemistry building at TTU, Verett quipped that chemistry drove him away from majoring in agro science to Business School, when he joined Tech in the Fall of 1971. Guess what, Verett comes back to chemistry building four decades later as a most respected leader in the U.S. cotton sector interacting with students and scientists on the current state of the United States’ cotton industry. Verett who farms 5,000 acres in Crosby County is a Tech graduate with an accounting degree.

Briefing about the current crop estimates from High Plains, two weeks lost due to cool weather in late September and early October would cost this year’s crop, but still High Plains’ crop would be good. “It is hard to get additional heat units in October for maturity,” stated Verett. Commenting on the estimates by the USDA, he stated that due to established procedures, at the end, they come out to be right. Projected crop from the High Plains this year will be about 5.44 million bales, while for Texas, it will be 9 million bales.

Optimistic About Cotton

Asked about the survival of High Plains’ cotton industry in the next twenty years, Verett was very optimistic as this area’s weather will support crops like cotton, which is highly drought tolerant. There is a need to produce quality crop for the reason that the market for U.S cotton is overseas. Even though United States’ consumers use textiles equivalent to 20 million bales, 80% of the crop is exported.

In answering a question from this scribe, Verett agreed that the U.S. cotton sector can have competitive and distinct advantage over other cotton producing countries by producing contaminant free cotton, with reliable delivery schedules and supplying consistent quality output.

Professor Eric Hequet, chairman of TTU’s Plant and Soil Science department and a renowned fiber quality expert highlighted the importance of maintaining a market share of 30% globally for cotton so that seed companies, textile mills and textile machinery companies will be motivated to find new products that can advance the industry. United States has done a better job in this regard with about 50% share due to promotion campaigns by the cotton industry.

The take home message here is that, with global population heavily concentrated in Asia, it is important that cotton maintains a healthy market share in those parts of the world.

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