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US Cotton Exports Surge, Fed by Vietnam and China

It’s been a good year for U.S. cotton exporters, with substantial increases in shipments to Vietnam and its Asian neighbors, although robust global production has kept prices down.

U.S. cotton export shipments through the first 11 months of the 2016-17 marketing year are running more than 70 percent ahead of year-ago levels, keeping them on track to reach the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast of 14.5 million bales for the year, which would the second highest level on record.

The increase in exports is widely distributed across markets, with exports up in 20 of the 25 largest U.S. markets, according to the USDA’s “Cotton: World Markets and Trade” report.

The increase in U.S. exports represents a large increase in the U.S. market share of Turkey’s imports, although that has been somewhat constrained by a large domestic crop that has reduced overall import demand.

[Read more about cotton certification: Study Says Cotton Certification Growing But Still Marginal]

Globally, strong U.S. exports reflect improved market share in many markets, as the global consumption recovery has only modestly raised world import demand, USDA said.

Vietnam is likely to remain the largest market for U.S. cotton with shipments up 70 percent to about 2.5 million bales in the 11 months, as import demand continues to expand and the already strong U.S. market share grows, perhaps reaching 60 percent this season. Continuing expansion of Vietnam’s mill use has supported strong sales this year.

Shipments have nearly tripled to China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan, as U.S. cotton has captured a greater market share alongside substantial expansion of total imports in these countries. With exports to China up by nearly 200 percent to about 2 million bales in the 11 months, it is now set to be the second largest U.S. market, after having fallen to fifth place in 2015-16, its lowest ranking in 15 years.

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Among the top 10 markets, only Mexico and Turkey have not exhibited rapid growth.

For 2017-18 the forecast shows higher global production, primarily in India. Higher beginning stocks are also forecast, but these are partially offset by higher consumption, the report noted.

World cotton production is expected to grow 7 percent to 24.6 million tons in 2017-18, according to the International Cotton Advisory Council forecast. Production in the U.S. is forecast to increase 12 percent to 4.2 million tons, which would be the largest volume since 2007-08.

The USDA’s weekly tracking of domestic cotton prices showed quotations averaged 66.98 cents per pound for the week ending July 6. The weekly average was up from 66.85 last week, but down from 63.56 cents reported the corresponding period a year earlier.

New York Futures stand at 68.84  cents per pound compared to 63.62 cents a year ago, while the Cotlook A Index of global cotton prices is at 83.65 cents from 75.60 a year earlier.