Cotton acreage projections may be bumped up

cotton-field2

Cotton plantings this year may not decline as much as originally anticipated, thanks in part to a drought in Texas and lower prices for potential alternative crops, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Farmers may sow slightly more than 8.5 million acres of cotton this year, the Bloomberg survey indicated. That’s up sharply from the 8.1-million-acre estimate released by the National Cotton Council last month, but would still be down sharply from 2008, when nearly 9.5 million acres were planted, Bloomberg reported.

Bloomberg’s survey is in line with US Department of Agriculture projections that 8.5 million acres of cotton will be planted in the US in 2009.

Even if farmers adhere to Bloomberg’s findings, it would be the smallest amoiunt of cotton planted since 1983 and the second lowest acreage-wise since the War Between the States.

Texas, the largest producer of U.S. cotton, is experiencing a “severe drought,” the National Weather Service said on March 19. The dryness reduces the chance farmers will switch more acres to soybeans and corn, which need more water, analysts said.

While soybeans and corn still offer attractive returns, they aren’t high enough to supplant more cotton acreage, said O.A. Cleveland, a Mississippi State University professor emeritus. He projects farmers will plant 8.8 million acres with cotton and expects the USDA’s new estimate to be 8.6 million, Bloomberg reported.

While the Bloomberg story didn’t detail projections by state, the National Cotton Council’s earlier estimate reported significant declines expected for much of the Southeast for the coming year: 

  • South Carolina plans a cutback of 18 percent as growers shift primarily to soybeans.
  • Alabama reports a projected reduction of 33 percent;
  • Virginia anticipates a 23 percent decline;
  • Georgia expects cotton production to be off 17 percent;
  • North Carolina plan a cutback of 12 percent;
  • Florida was the only Southeastern state to indicate an expansion, with an increase of 3 percent expected for 2009.

Cotton is the single most important textile fiber in the world, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total world fiber production, according to the USDA. The United States, while typically ranking second to China in production, is the leading exporter, accounting for over one-third of global trade in raw cotton. 

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