Analysts project drop in US cotton crop

Cotton projections took a significant hit over the past couple of weeks, as analysts dropped US crop estimates to 15.8 million bales, from 17 million bales recently forecasted by the US Department of Agriculture.

Speaking July 27 at the Ag Market Network’s annual Cotton Roundtable in New York, forecasters pointed to drought conditions in Texas as a key factor behind the 7 percent drop from USDA projections made on July 11.

Surprisingly, while this year’s Texas crop is still struggling under the grip of an extended drought, it’s doing better than last year’s 3.5 million-bale crop, in which 62 percent of the acreage was abandoned, according to Southeast Farm Press.

Moderate to severe drought conditions have existed for more than a year in Texas, said Carl Anderson, extension specialist emeritus at Texas A&M University.

“During the first half of 2012, rainfall across most cotton areas in Texas totaled less than 2 inches,” he said. “However, there have been some localized rains that benefited both irrigated fields and some dryland areas.”

Texas is the nation leading cotton-growing state.

“In the three months of April through June, much of the cotton-growing areas have received 8 percent to 12 percent of normal rainfall,” Anderson said. “As of July 23, Texas cotton is rated by USDA as 8 percent very poor, 17 percent poor, 38 percent fair, 31 percent good and only 6 percent excellent.”

Of the estimated 6.8 million acres planted in Texas, about one-third of the acreage planted (mostly dryland) is likely to be abandoned due primarily to dry soil conditions. In South Texas, cotton conditions are mixed — some good and some bad, according to Southeast Farm Press.

In the Southeast, about 2.7 million acres were planted this season, down about 700,000 acres from the previous year, the publication reported.

The US crop will likely be boosted by near-record yields in the Far West this season, Southeast Farm Press added.

Jarral Neeper, president of Calcot, projected that California will yields at a record 1,660 pounds per acre for upland cotton and 1,577 pounds for Pima, which would produce a crop of 1.2 million bales – 512,000 bales of upland and 703,000 bales of Pima.

Neeper estimates a yield of 1,598 pounds per acre for Arizona upland, producing a crop of 659,000 bales. Pima production will fall on reduced acres, Neeper noted. “Arizona will produce only 8,000 bales of Pima, for a total of 667,000 bales.”

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