Global Growth of Cotton Mill Use Varies by Country

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cotton projections for 2017/18 (August-July) indicate that global cotton mill use is forecast to rise for the second consecutive season. World cotton consumption is projected at 117.0 million bales in 2017/18, 3% higher than 2016/17 and the highest mill use since 2009/10 when consumption reached 119.5 million bales.

China, the leading spinner of raw cotton, has expanded its mill use since 2014/15, and is forecast to account for nearly one-third of the 2017/18 global total. Cotton mill use is also projected to expand in a number of other countries as well. With 2014/15 as the base year, 2017/18 world cotton consumption is projected 5% higher. While China’s mill use is expected nearly 12% above 2014/15, cotton mill use in India and Pakistan remains relatively flat. In contrast, cotton mill use continues to rise in Bangladesh, and 2017/18 use is projected to be 19% above 2014/15. Even more remarkable has been the growth in Vietnam, where 2017/18 mill use is expected to be 44% above 2014/15.

2017/18 world cotton production is projected at 115.4 million bales, 8% (8.8 million bales) above 2016/17 and 19% above 2015/16’s 12-year low. In 2017/18, global cotton production is forecast at its highest level in 3 years, with each of the major producing countries expecting larger crops. With alternative crops less favorable for the 2017/18 season, global cotton harvested area is projected to jump 10% from 2016/17’s 30-year low to 32.4 million hectares (80.1 million acres). The world cotton yield is estimated at 775 kilograms per hectare (691 pounds per acre) in 2017/18, 2% below a year earlier.

Global cotton production remains concentrated among a handful of countries. In 2017/18, the top five cotton-producing countries are forecast to account for more than 76% of total production, similar to last season but slightly below the 2013/14-2015/16 average. India, the largest cotton producer, accounts for 25% of the 2017/18 global crop estimate, while China and the U.S. are expected to contribute 21% and 16.5%, respectively.

World cotton trade in 2017/18 is forecast at 36.8 million bales, less than 1% above 2016/17. Offsetting changes among the major exporters, however, mask significant differences for the upcoming 2017/18 season. The U.S. is expected to reduce its shipments by 1 million bales in 2017/18, as other major producing countries have additional supplies to export.

Global ending stocks are projected at 88.7 million bales for 2017/18, a 1.5-million-bale reduction from 2016/17, as world cotton consumption is expected to exceed production for the third consecutive season.

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