Textile shifts change cotton buying pattern

A continuing dramatic migration of textile manufacturing from developed nations to developing nations is causing changes to the lineup of major world cotton buyers, says Memphis, Tenn. cotton merchant William B. Dunavant.

"The major traditional consumers like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are losing their textile industries," he said at the 2001 Beltwide Cotton Conferences at Anaheim, Calif. "We're fighting the same scenario in the U.S. as our textile business moves to Mexico and Canada."

While this has led a number of analysts to predict that in five years U.S. cotton consumption will drop to 8 million bales, Dunavant sees a less grim scenario. "I think it will continue to drop, but not that dramatically. I think the Caribbean Basin Initiative will, in time, be a factor in stopping the demise of the U.S. textile industry."

In the meantime, he said, the Russian textile industry "is becoming revitalized" and will import about 1.6 million bales this season, most from countries in the region. Turkey will import about the same amount, most from the United States, while India will import about 1.5 million bales, the bulk of it from West Africa. The bright spot is Mexico, expected to import 2.1 million bales, with the United States the major supplier.

Brazil and Italy will import another 2 million-plus bales, almost none from the United States. Bangladesh is a growth market, going from only 450,000 bales five years ago to 750,000 this year, and Dunavant expects in time the United States will become their major supplier.

"Indonesia, a traditional importer, will buy 2.075 million bales," he said, "but Australia will be their major supplier because of quality and proximity."

Japan's imports will drop to 1.15 million bales from 2 million just a few years ago years ago; Korea's will drop by a nearly similar amount, and there will be declines of imports by Hong Kong and Taiwan.

As has been the case for more than a decade, China will be "the major player" in the world market, Dunavant said.

While China's National Statistics Bureau is projecting a crop this season of 19.98 million bales, "we believe that is incorrect" and that it will be nearer 18.5 million.

"I speculate that since the bureau is a big political structure in China, the number has political ramifications, and it seems (the Chinese) are trying to keep domestic cotton prices low in order to benefit their textile industry."

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