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Textile trade conversion factors revised down for cotton

Oct '09
This month, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) begins publishing textile trade data using new conversion factors. Over the last 20 years, the efficiency of cotton use in yarn spinning has gradually increased, and recycling at various stages of textile production has grown in importance. Increased efficiency means that less raw cotton fiber is consumed to produce the same volume of textile products, and USDA has adjusted its cotton textile trade conversion factors down to account for the change.

The volume of fiber used to produce yarn is inevitably larger than the volume of yarn produced due to losses during cleaning, carding, and spinning. However, new technology means that, while at one time, about 10 percent of the cotton fiber used by spinning mills was not incorporated into any textile products, today that figure has fallen to 5 percent. The result is that, whereas 111 pounds of cotton fiber were previously required to produce 100 pounds of yarn, now only 105 pounds are required.

USDA also reviewed its estimates of the shares of various fibers incorporated in some products, and reduced the estimated share of cotton in a small number of products. As a result, the estimates for U.S. textile trade in terms of other fibers are now marginally higher.

USDA's estimated mill-use equivalence of the cotton fiber in U.S. textile trade is about 5 percent lower with the new conversion factors. In 2008, net textile imports in cotton fiber terms were estimated at 8.4 million pounds (17.6 million bales) using the old conversion factors, but the estimate is now 8.0 million pounds (16.6 million bales).

The largest change in trade for other fibers is in estimated imports of manmade fibers, up 0.3 percent, from 6.83 million pounds to 6.84 million. For all fibers, the decline in estimated trade is smaller than for cotton. USDA's estimated mill-use equivalence of all fibers in U.S. textile trade is 3 percent lower with the new conversion factors. In 2008, net textile imports in all fiber terms were estimated at 14.4 million pounds using the old conversion factors, but the estimate is now 14.1 million pounds. Cotton's share of U.S. textile trade is also smaller. In 2008, cotton's share of net textile imports is now estimated at 56.8 percent, compared with 58.2 percent using the old conversion factors.

Since the large majority of cotton products consumed in the United States are imported, the estimated end-use of cotton products by U.S. households in 2008 is also smaller, down 4.3 percent or 940,00 bales, to 20.9 million bales. Cotton's estimated share of all fibers in U.S. end-use is also lower with the new conversion factors, down from 42.2 percent to 41.2 percent.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

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