Joe Nicosia David Blakemore Cotton Outlook
Joe Nicosia, left, senior head of cotton and merchandising platforms at Louis Dreyfus Company in Memphis, visits with David Blakemore, president of Blakemore Cotton & Grain in Campbell, Mo. during the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Growers and Southeastern Cotton Ginners in Myrtle Beach. Blakemore serves as president of the National Cotton Ginners Association.

12.5 million to 13 million US cotton acres predicted

Joe Nicosia is forecasting U.S. cotton acreage to expand to 12.5 to 13 million acres in 2018 due in part to more favorable prices compared to other crops.

Joe Nicosia is forecasting U.S. cotton acreage to expand to 12.5 to 13 million acres in 2018 due in part to more favorable prices compared to other crops.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Growers and Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Jan.19, Nicosia, senior head of cotton and merchandising platforms at Louis Dreyfus Company in Memphis, said cotton is still faring favorably against other row crops in the United States.

“Compared to previous seasons, 2018-2019 prices look better for cotton than other crops,” he said “We expect acreage to remain high.”

Editor's note: This story updated the evening of Jan. 26 with comments from Dr. Gary Adams, president and CEO of the National Cotton Council.

Nicosia sees a wave of demand coming for cotton in 2018-2019. World consumption growth continues to grow and Nicosia is forecasting and increase in worldwide cotton acreage to meet the increased demand.

If global consumption increases continue at a 4-percent growth rate in 2018-2019, that means the world will need almost 5 million more bales to meet demand, according to Nicosia.

“At current prices, world cotton area is likely to increase slightly in 2018-2019. That’s OK. We’re not afraid of a fight. They want to grow more, we’re going to grow more,” he said. “With a production outlook of 20 million plus bales, the U.S. has the opportunity to maintain or even expand its share of world trade, but execution is going to be critical."

Global cotton consumption has rebounded to 120.8 million bales for 2017-2018, but this is still below the peak of 124.2 million bales in 2006-2007. Global consumption plummeted to 104.2 million bales in 2011-2012.

Slight deficit

World cotton production is expected to increase to 121 million bales in 2017-2018, compared to 106.6 million bales in 2016-2017 and 96.2 million bales in 2015-2016, according to USDA.

Currently, Nicosia projects a slight global cotton deficit in 2018-2019. He said the world has moved from a 16.1 million bale production deficit in 2015-2016 to production-consumption balance in 2017-2018.

USDA projects 2017/2018 world ending stocks to be 87.8 million bales. Nicosia said this is still high and could impact prices.

In his comments to the farmers and ginners, Nicosia expressed concern about cotton being held in U.S. warehouses that is not being shipped to customers quickly enough. “We’re selling a lot of bales, but we’re not shipping a lot of bales,” he said. “We have strong export sales, but when we have to actually ship, we’re lagging behind.”

Nicosia said shipping delays by the warehouses is harming all sectors of the industry. It impacts all sectors of the cotton industry, he said.

“Warehouses serve as the storage and distribution centers and are responsible for making the product available to the customer. Their level of performance is critical to the overall success of the industry. Sub-optimal performance of any one of the segments negatively affects the bottom line of all segments to some extent,” he said.

Internal data of Louis Dreyfus shows that of the warehouses holding U.S. cotton bales to be shipped, 61 percent in the Southesat, 70 percent in the Delta and 60 percent in the Southwest are currently providing load-out dates that are 30 or more days from now, according to Nicosia.

Nicosia said the shipping delay issue came before the National Cotton Council and a resolution was approved to offer incentives for the warehouses to ship cotton more quickly.  Nicosia said shippers will be given subsidies if the meet or exceed minimum standards in shipping cotton to customers.

Warehouses challenged

In an interview with Southeast Farm Press, Dr. Gary Adams, president and CEO of the National Cotton Council, said the council’s Cotton Flow Committee has been looking into the cotton flow issue. The committee has been in place for several years now.

“The committee has been doing some good work over this last year to look at ways to improve cotton flow,” Adams said.

A challenge last year was the large U.S. crop of 21 million bales. “It really puts some constraints on the warehouse when receiving all of the cotton in the fall and at the same time they are trying to turn around and ship different bales of cotton,” Adams explained. “Warehouses continue to work on and some have been very innovative on how they address those issues.”

Adams said the council is looking to see if incentives could be placed in the new farm bill to improve cotton flow.

“One of the recommendation that came down from our board was to look at some type of credits that might be generated by a warehouse if they achieve a certain shipping performance within a week,” he said. ”Those credits would be used to help offset the cost of a future redemption of cotton out of the CCC  (Commodity Credit Corporation)  loan,  but it would provide some incentives  to have more cotton moving into the marketing channels earlier in the marketing year.”

The NCC is also looking at industry practices that have been discussed within the flow committee, such as optimizing the location of cotton within the warehouse.

“On electronic warehouse receipts there is actually a field for locator identification. One of the things the committee talked about is to require that that field be actually populated so that you have a much better idea of where the cotton bale is in the warehouse,” Adams said.

"Some warehouses are shipping as hard as they can go. They are doing everything they can to move cotton. And then you have some warehouses, for a variety of reasons, that aren’t shipping as fast. There is a lot of variability when you look across that segment," Adams said.

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