The 2006/07 crop of American Pima cotton is being picked as of this writing and it appears that it will be a record production year. The latest USDA estimate is for 789,000 bales. If this happens, it will surpass the previous record of 745,000 bales produced in 2004/05. Last years American Pima crop was 630,500 bales.

The typical question one might ask at this time is will the strong demand and prices for American Pima cotton continue? Especially with world production of Extra-Long Staple cotton being increased. The ICAC is predicting world ELS cotton production to be increased by approximately 600,000 bales from last season. Supima feels that even with this increased production, that demand for American Pima cotton will continue to be strong in the 2007 year.

There is no doubt, however, that competition will be much fiercer. Because of the increased supply and because in the case of American Pima, there is little likelihood of a Step 2 payment this season. The ICAC is projecting world production to be up by over 730,000 bales from the previous year.

One of the key factors in the demand for American Pima cotton is Supimas advertising/promotional/marketing programs. This program has been successful because almost every producer of this special cotton supports financially the work of Supima. The growers voluntarily pay a bale assessment to Supima to fund these marketing programs.

One of the important segments of Supimas activities is the licensing program. We now have over 250 licensees, including spinners, weavers, knitters, apparel, home manufacturers, brands and retailers. A licensee who uses the Supima name and trademark must use only American Pima cotton in their textile product. Consequently, the growth in the number of Supima licensees can be directly linked to the growth in demand for American Pima.

Marketing and promotion are extremely important to the success of any product, but unless the product meets strict consumer demands, even the most well financed and managed promotion/advertising program will not succeed. That has been a key to the success of American Pima and Supima. It is advertised and promoted as the worlds finest cotton and it meets strict criteria.

American Pima cotton offers the best value to the spinner and fabric manufacturer than any other premium cotton. There are other ELS cottons that might be stronger, some that are longer staple, etc. However, when all of the factors such as length, strength, uniformity, micronaire are compared, American Pima offers the spinner the best value. Also, the factors of reliability, lint free of contamination and the USDA grading system. These are all reasons why American Pima cotton is the best value for spinners, weavers and knitters who must provide the highest quality textiles.

The excellent farming management practices in the U.S. also help in this effort. In the 2005/06 crop year, 88.1% of the American Pima crop had a color grade of Grade 2 or better. The virtual balance of the crop was covered by the Grade 3 color grade with 10.2% and the Grade 4 color grade with 1.3% of the crop. Beside the high consistency in the color for the crop year, the other cotton fiber characteristics also mimic this trait. The strength of American Pima averaged 40.4 GPT, with 68.3% of the crop being above 40 GPT. The staple is also notable in that 73.9% of the crop had a staple length (fiber length) that was a 48 staple or longer. A 48 staple refers to a measurement in 32nds of an inch, and as such a 48 staple represents a fiber length of 1.5 inches.

When including the 46 staple (1-7/16), 97.1% of the crop was represented with only 17,607 bales out of the crop having a staple length less than a 46 staple. Finally, the uniformity for the American Pima crop averaged 85.3 with 79.8% of the crop having a uniformity of an 85 or higher. The 2005/06 crop year was not a unique crop year and certainly not the best crop ever. However, the quality was still very high and representative of what the American Pima crop is recognized for high and consistent quality cotton. The initial classing reports for the 2006/07 crop are similar to last year, with 92.9% of the crop having a color grade of Grade 2 or better. The fiber length of the crop is showing better numbers this year with 80.5% of the crop being reported with a staple length of 48 or longer. Including 46 staple, 98.6% of the crop is represented.

India continues to be one of the best customers for American Pima cotton. The last two years consumption has been 76,000 bales and 75,000 bales respectfully. This can be compared to just nine years ago (1996/97), when India only purchased 3,900 bales of American Pima cotton. Only China exceeded India in purchases for the 2005/06 years.

Supima is proud to work so closely with many of the India textile firms. We are pleased to have 30 of the leading Indian mills as Supima licensees. They are as follows:

About the author:

Jesse W. Curlee is a President of Supima that promotes American Pima cotton in the U.S. and abroad and licenses the name and trademark worldwide to textile/ apparel manufacturers and retailers. Curlee is also a trustee and past Chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation.

He is also a director of the 12th Man Foundation at Texas A&M, a member of the President's Council of Advisors, past President of the Former Students Association of Texas A&M University, a member of the Phoenix Rotary Club; Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations; Advisory Director of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association; and an advisor to the Executive Committee of Cotton Council International.

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