Cotton Crop Tops Private Estimates

USDA forecast came in about a million bales higher the private guesses. Compiled by staff

Published on: Aug 24, 2004

USDA’s first objective yield crop production forecast of the 2004-05 crop delivered a stunner, predicting 20.2 million bales in the U.S., or more than 10% higher than last season and only 120,000 bales below the record crop of 2001-02.

The number was almost a million bales higher than the largest private analysis forecast of 19.3 million bales, and it could have been larger if not for some near-disasters in Louisiana and Mississippi’s estimates, say Calcot analysts.

As might be expected, USDA’s 2004-05 projections for near- record production for the U.S, but also higher ending stocks. Ending stocks are anticipated to reach 5.9 million bales, more than 30% above last month and the highest level in three years.

There were a couple of surprises in the report: projected domestic mill use for 2004-05 was increased marginally to 5.9 million bales, "as recent levels of cotton textile imports are lower than previously anticipated," the report notes.

U.S. exports were also raised 700,000 bales to 12.0 million, "due to a combination of higher U.S. production and slightly stronger foreign demand," the report says.

Elsewhere in the day’s reports were a look at the world cotton situation for 2004-05, which featured higher production (mostly from the U.S. adjustment), but also higher consumption, trade, and ending stocks.

World production is now estimated at 106.6 million bales, 8% above the record set in 2001-02. Production was raised mainly for the U.S., but India also saw an increase of 250,000 bales.

Decreases for Brazil of a half million bales and 100,000 for Australia helped offset the production increases.

World consumption estimates were also increased to 100.66 million bales, up a half million from last month. Increases were posted mainly for China, India, and to a much lesser degree, the U.S.

"Higher world trade is responding to larger global supplies and increased import demand by China, Pakistan, and others," the report says, and raised exports for the U.S and Brazil, but lowered for Australia, Syria, and others.

World stocks ending stocks were revised up nearly 4% from last month, to 39.22 million bales.

The market responded as expected to such a bearish report, trading near limit down and closing down nearly a cent and a half from the initial opening.

Concerns over potential damage to the Southeastern U.S. crop from the one-two punch of Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Charlie possibly helped lighten the losses on that the day.

The big adjustment to the world’s cotton outlook clearly came from the U.S., where total cotton production is forecast at 20.2 million 480-pound bales, up 11% percent from last year's 18.3 million bales.

Yield is expected to average 727 pounds per harvested acre, down only three pounds from 2003.

Upland cotton production is forecast at 19.5 million bales, 9% above 2003. American-Pima production is forecast at 703,000 bales, up 63% from last year's output.

Producers expect to harvest 13.3 million acres of cotton in 2004, 11% above last year. Upland cotton harvested area, at 13.1 million acres, is 1.24 million acres more than a year ago, with most of that increase—1.15 million—coming from Texas.

Texas producers have noted all season that abandonment in the Lone Star State will be considerably less than usual based on conditions to date.

Pima harvested area is expected to total 250,000 acres, 41% more than 2003, with most of that increase coming from California, up 70,000 acres from last year.

In explaining the increases, USDA noted that America’s Upland cotton growers planted 13.6 million acres, up 2% from a year ago.

Considering the crop condition, it’s perhaps a bit of a surprise that California’s yield was posted at only 1,422 pounds per acre, up 105 pounds from last season but nearly 70 pounds off the record yield of a couple of seasons ago.

But more acres, combined with higher yield, produced an estimate of 1.65 million bales of Acala and Upland cotton.

Part of the big jump for California came in the Pima production forecast of 703,000 bales, up 63% from last year's output.

U.S. Pima yield is forecast at 1,350 pounds per harvested acre, 180 pounds above the previous year. If realized, this will be a record high U.S. yield.

California growers expect yields to average 1,403 pounds per acre, up 209 pounds from last year and up 17 pounds from their previous record high established in 2002.

Combined, California’s crop will be 2.29 million bales, up over 430,000 from last season. The increase in the Golden State, paired with declines elsewhere, will push California back into its traditional number two spot as the nation’s largest producer.

Arizona’s crop will also be larger, due to 15,000 more acres and a 45-pound increase in yields. The desert state will produce 60,000 more Upland bales than last season, from 550,000 to 610,000 bales.