Amidst all of the uncertainties in cotton agriculture, one thing is undeniable— our grower-owners work extremely hard to nurture a crop from planting to harvest. That fact increases the importance of making sure that we do everything in our power to generate the maximum possible return to them.
Recently, there are three factors that have impacted the value of cotton and are likely to do so well into the future. There are other determinants, but we believe retail demand, synthetic fiber dynamics and sustainability are the driving force behind the moderately better markets recently experienced. Let’s break down each one:
RETAIL DEMAND Around the world, there has been an increase in the consumption of cotton apparel and textiles. Some of the growth can be attributed to a strong economic climate and an expanding population of middle class consumers, according to data from Cotton Incorporated. The future direction of the market depends in large part on whether the economic climate can be sustained. You need look no further than a cable TV news channel or mainstream news outlet to find both bullish and bearish scenarios. We believe the world economy wants to grow, but is it enough to overcome issues such as trade and political risks that make daily headlines?
SYNTHETIC FIBER DYNAMICS If you check the pulse of consumers, man-made chemical fibers have been making news lately mostly for the wrong reasons. Research has shown that substances like polyester can actually find their way into waterways and seas as a result of home laundering, according a 2011 study by the American Chemical Society. Fibers that are too small to be seen may be polluting our oceans and thus a large part of our food supply. It remains unclear if consumers will be affected by this news in the long-run. However, cotton’s status as an all-natural fiber may help us recapture some market share.
SUSTAINABILITY U.S. cotton growers are the most environmentally responsible producers in the world and yet they struggle to gain recognition for their advances. While it is right to be concerned with conservation and the environment, it is wrong to ignore the reduced use of crop-protection chemicals, water, and land on which U.S. cotton is grown. We believe it is a disincentive to disregard the efforts of U.S. farmers in these important areas. Wisely, many retailers and manufacturers around the world have acknowledged our progress. However, more must be done to ensure that all textile and apparel brands accept U.S. fiber as among the most responsibly-produced in the world. To that end, PCCA continues to explore participation in a number of education and public relations initiatives aimed at sustainability. The most important thing for the U.S. cotton industry to acknowledge is that sustainability concerns from consumers are never going away, and we must adapt our marketing to that reality.
Continued progress in these three important market drivers will help move cotton prices to a profitable level for our grower-owners. We have resources dedicated to ensuring that your best interests are protected to the maximum possible level. I hope we can report improvements in all of these areas in the future.