2008/09 cotton production forecast slightly lower in August
According to USDA's first survey-based forecast, the 2008 U.S. cotton crop is projected at 13.8 million bales, slightly below July's estimate but more than 5 million bales below last season's crop.
The 2008 production decline is attributable to lower area that resulted from competing crop prices offering attractive alternatives to many producers across the Cotton Belt, as well as a much higher abandonment and lower yield than in 2007.
U.S. cotton production is forecast at its lowest since 1989/90. Upland production is projected at 13.2 million bales, nearly 28 percent below the 2007 crop, while the extra-long staple (ELS) crop is forecast at 522,000 bales, 39 percent below last season.
During the previous 20 years, the August forecast was below the final cotton production estimate 11 times and above it 9 times. Past differences between the August forecast and the final production estimate indicate that chances are two out of three for the 2008 U.S. cotton crop to range between 12.5 and 15 million bales. Compared with last season, upland production is expected to decline in each of the four Cotton Belt regions in 2008.
In the Southwest, the upland crop is forecast to fall 3 million bales to 5.5 million, the lowest in 5 years, as harvested area there is the smallest in a decade. Inclement weather early in the season has led to an above-average abandonment rate in the region. Meanwhile, the projected 2008 yield for the region, at 737 pounds per harvested acre, is second highest on record behind last season's 840 pounds.
The Delta crop is forecast at 3.9 million bales, the smallest since 1986 as area declined to its lowest in 25 years. The Delta region has shifted significant area to alternative crops over the past 2 seasons. The yield, however, is projected at 973 pounds per harvested acre, the second highest on record.
Similarly, the Southeast region's cotton area has decreased once again in 2008. The area and production projections are the smallest in 15 years, with the crop forecast at 3 million bales in 2008, 8 percent below 2007. Meanwhile, the Southeast yield is projected at its third highest at 774 pounds per harvested acre.
In the West, where upland area has continued its declining trend, planted area in 2008 is estimated at its lowest since 1922. Despite the third highest yield on record, upland production for the West region is forecast at only 825,000 bales, the smallest crop since 1946.
Meanwhile, the 2008 ELS cotton crop is projected to decline significantly as area is forecast at its lowest in 5 years. The ELS yield is forecast at 1,292 pounds per harvested acre, slightly above the 5-year average. The crop continues to be grown predominantly in California, where over 90 percent of the ELS cotton is produced.
Based on the August forecast, total area planted to cotton in 2008 is estimated at 9.25 million acres, with harvested acreage estimated at 7.8 million acres, 25 percent below a year ago. The national yield is forecast at 842 pounds per harvested acre, similar to the previous 3-year average.