MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Lingering effects and uncertainties for the general economy continue to present challenges for the U.S. cotton industry but data suggest the worst has been weathered and recent concerns are being replaced with prospects for recovery and growth, National Cotton Council Economist Dr. Gary Adams says.
Adams, who serves as the NCC’s vice president of economics & policy analysis, shared his insights during the presentation of the NCC’s 2010 Economic Outlook today to delegates attending the NCC’s 72nd Annual Meeting here.
A major reason for optimism, Adams said, is that after seven months of the 2009 marketing year, it is increasingly clear that global cotton stocks will see their first substantial decline since the 2002 marketing year, and the estimated stock reduction of 9.4 million bales would be the largest single-year drawdown since 1986. Projected 2009 global mill use of 114.6 million bales -- 3.1 percent higher than 2008 -- and ending stocks of 51.5 million bales would result in a global stocks-to-use ratio of 45 percent.
“An unknown at this point is the extent to which the rebound in mill use is due to stronger consumer demand or the replenishing of pipeline inventories,” Adams said. “For the 2010 marketing year, world mill use is projected to grow by 2.3 percent, reaching 117.3 million bales. This growth, though, is predicated on the continued improvement in the general economy.”
Adams said that ending U.S. cotton stocks are projected to fall to 3.7 million bales by the 2009 marketing year’s end – the lowest stocks since the 2003 marketing year and a dramatic change from the 10 million bales of stocks just two years earlier. For the 2010 marketing year, U.S. cotton stocks are projected to remain at 3.7 million bales as the combination of 3.4 million bales of mill use and 12.1 million bales of exports are in line with the projected crop of 15.5 million bales.
Worldwide 2010 stocks are expected to decline by 900,000 bales, bringing the stocks-to-use ratio down to 43.2 percent.
“As always, China and India remain wildcards in the outlook,” Adams noted. “Production in both countries is likely to show a modest recovery in 2010, but mill use also is expanding. In China, a projected drop in 2010 stocks will put their stocks-to-use relationship at the lowest level in recent years.”
Adams also noted that U.S. cotton’s competitiveness with grains and oilseeds has improved to its most favorable position since prior to the 2006 season. This is reflected in the NCC’s annual planting intentions survey results, a projected 10.1 million acres in 2010 -- up 10.3 percent from 2009.
He said stronger cotton prices are expected to bring additional acres into production outside the United States, too, but the expansion could be less than initially anticipated. For the 2010 marketing year, he sees a world crop of 113.9 million bales.
“While an 11 million bale rebound in production is substantial,” Adams said, “the expected crop falls short of mill use at 117.3 million bales.”
He said that scenario is supportive of cotton prices, which gained momentum in the latter half of 2009.
“However, the outlook is not without risks and uncertainties,” Adams emphasized, “particularly given the fragile nature of the macroeconomic recovery.”
Additional details of the 2010 Cotton Economic Outlook are on the NCC’s website at http://www.cotton.org/econ/reports/annual-outlook.cfm.