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Global experts discuss challenges affecting cotton sector
Dec '12
Cotton Council International (CCI) and Cotton Incorporated, in cooperation with USDA, jointly presented the seventh biennial Sourcing USA Summit in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The event, held on November 12-16, attracted 400 delegates from 23 countries, including representatives from the cotton industry’s top tier textile manufacturers, merchant ts along with companies and organizations integral to the global cotton supply chain.

Opening remarks by National Cotton Council (NCC) Chairman Chuck Coley reiterated the continuing commitment of U.S. growers to supply mill customers and the entire supply chain with reliable, quality cotton, a pledge echoed by the U.S. cotton growers attending the event. The issue of supply, and its partner demand, shaped the event program, which explored the myriad factors that affect these business basics.

Panel discussions and presentations by world class experts offered perspectives and outlooks for the mitigating factors of weather; cotton’s competitors in the commodity and textile fiber arenas; the global economy; and changing manufacturing, retail and consumer landscapes.

The keynote presentation by Luke Williams, professor of innovation and design at New York University Stern School of Business, challenged traditional business models of predictability, advocating instead a model of provocation as a means of business survival in a disruptive age.

Relying more heavily on predictive models, Craig Solberg, a senior meteorologist at Free se-NotisWeather, explained cyclical weather patterns and suggested that the current drought conditions affecting the U.S. High Plains might continue for five to 10 years. This news was tempered somewhat by Doug Rushing, director of global industry affairs at Monsanto, who cited emerging developments by his company for cotton and corn varieties with enhanced drought tolerance characteristics.

Corn, as explained by Richard Brock, president of Brock Associates, recently has been a key challenger to cotton acreage, especially in the United States where ethanol fuel programs enabled corn to fetch a higher price than cotton on the market. Looking forward, however, Brock anticipates a collapse of the corn bubble, which could make cotton a more attractive commodity for farmers in the United States and other countries.

The historic high price for raw cotton fiber, which exceeded US$2.00 a pound last year, has returned to more traditional levels, currently hovering around US$.80 per pound. Dr. Gary Adams, the NCC’s vice president of Economics & Policy Analysis, discussed the run-up aftermath and recovery challenges. The Summit also featured animated “Bull & Bear” panel of U.S. cotton industry representatives who focused on prices and cotton availability.

John Baffes, a senior economist at the World Bank, provided a more macro perspective of the relationships between commodity prices, in general. Baffes noted that relative to the 1997-2004averages for commodity prices, cotton advanced modestly at under 40 percent, as compared to energy, metals, grains and other commodities.

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