The Success of Fibermax Cotton in the World Markets

Monday, March 23, 2009


There’s been a lot of hand wringing recently over the sad state of affairs in exports of U.S. cotton. Exports in 2008 really sagged and during the first month of 2009 have really plunged. Of course, such declines are a direct result of the global recession as textile mills have slashed consumption of cotton and other fibers resulting from weak sales of yarns, fabrics and made-up apparel products.

But something else has happened in the market that has gone largely unreported in the trade media: While overall exports of U.S. cotton are down sharply, exports of Fibermax-like cotton (that is, cotton with a staple length greater than 1-1/8” that’s not Pima) has taken over as a driving force behind U.S. exports.


I say “Fibermax-like” cotton because Fibermax varieties now directly compete with SJV varieties in terms of price and quality and U.S. government export statistics lump Fibermax varieties in with SJV for statistical purposes. But with acres of SJV now making up just a small percentage of the U.S. crop, Fibermax has grown to be the dominant variety of quality upland cotton in the U.S.

It’s not surprising, then, to see a shift away from traditional upland cotton in favor of quality upland varieties like Fibermax. Mills demand the quality in order to provide better products at a good price for their customers. In turn, retailers are looking for better ways of delivering consumers with better apparel for a better price in order to maintain sales during the economic recession.

Not only the largest producer of the textiles in the world, China is a major consumer of Fibermax–like cotton. In fact, in January U.S. exports of these varieties soared by more than 300%, while the upper and lower portions of the market (Pima and traditional upland) saw stiff declines.

I have some comments concerning the most recent U.S. export results (as compiled by the Census Bureau) for January 2009. These are:

1. Overall exports to the world are down by more than 21% for January 2009 compared to January 2008, but Fibermax-like exports are up by more than 41%.

2. So far in 2009, traditional upland cotton's share of US exports is down to 57%, which compares to more than 66% in January 2008; for Fibermax-like varieties, its share of the export market is up to more than 36% from just 20% a year-ago.

3. For the January 2009, exports to China approached 270,000 bales, up more than 320% from January 2008 levels. China now consumes more than 38% of all Fibermax-like exports to the world; in January 2008, China consumed 12.8%.

4. China is importing Fibermax-like varieties at an annualized rate of 3.2 million bales. China imported 1.5 million bales of FM in 2008.

5. Other highlights: January 2009 exports to Bangladesh have soared by more than 3500%; Bangladesh was the second largest market for Fibermax-like varieties after China. Exports of Fibermax-like varieties to Pakistan were up by more than 35% in January, while exports to Hong Kong were up by 166% and exports to Vietnam were up by 272%. Interestingly, exports to Morocco were up by 165%. Exports to Mexico, Turkey, Thailand and Indonesia were down by 36%, 7%, 12% and 34%, respectively.

Please check out the following presentation (MOV format) … it provides a statistical overview of the U.S. export scenario described above.




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