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Yarn Market
Alfred Dockery, Technical Editor

Pima Cotton Supplies Tight

Alfred Dockery, Technical Editor

D espite a record crop of 736,000 bales, Pima cotton has become a scarce commodity. As one spinner put it: “Pima is in very short supply right now. So if you don’t have Pima, you’re not getting it, not good-quality Pima.”

“US Pima is basically sold out as of [the] first of April,” said Rodger Glaspey, president of Fresno, Calif.-based Dunavant of California.

This year’s crop was a record in terms of yield, due in part to good weather throughout the growing season. However, late-season rains in California’s San Joaquin Valley resulted in a higher than normal percentage of lower grades.

Over the last five years, Pima cotton exports have ranged from 400,000 bales to this year’s projected 800,000 bales. Between 1999 and 2003, US Pima exports have averaged 492,000 running bales; domestic use, 106,000.

Supply And Demand

Glaspey credits the demand to a combination of growing consumer preference for higher-end, fine-count yarns and very competitively priced Pima due to the export subsidy.

“Domestically, US spinners will use between 50,000 and 60,000 bales, and exports will be close to 750,000,” said Jarral Neeper, vice president of marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Calcot Ltd. “Total off-take of Pima should exceed 800,000 bales. Ending US stocks will be less than 30,000 bales. This is one of the tightest situations ever.”

The worldwide supply/ demand situation of extra-long staple (ELS) cottons also is extremely tight. The total world carryout of all ELS varieties is estimated to be about 900,000 bales, one of the smallest on record. This compares to total world consumption of roughly 4 million bales.

Pima and ELS cotton is grown in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, but the lion’s share comes from the San Joaquin Valley. Another major source for ELS cotton is Egypt.

Glaspey expects a 10- to 15-percent increase in planted US Pima acreage this year, weather permitting. Pima requires a significantly longer growing period than conventional upland cottons. If producers can’t get it in the ground by late April, they will switch to planting upland cottons.

Shifting Exports

This year, Pakistan leads the top five leading Pima importers with purchases of 182,200 bales. China, India, Japan and Taiwan follow with purchases of 116,000 bales, 76,200 bales, 72,300 bales and 59,800 bales, respectively. These nations account for 67.3 percent of export-based purchases of US Pima made to date this year, according to Phoenix, Ariz.-based Supima, the promotional group for US Pima growers. In 2004, the largest buyer was Pakistan, followed by China, Japan and Peru.

“A shift is taking place,” Glaspey said. “We see some of our traditional customers — Japan, Italy and Switzerland, as well as the United States — [have shrunk] in the last three to four seasons. The markets that have really been on the rise, as far as spinning fine counts, have been Pakistan in particular, [and] China, Indonesia and India.” 

Marketing Pima

Pima products have traditionally included fine shirting, sheeting and high-end knit apparel. Recently, the fiber has moved into other product categories including towels and even denim.

“The Supima organization has done a tremendous job of promoting and leveraging the product lines,” Neeper said. “They have done a great job inculcating the consumer with the message that Supima cotton represents luxury and quality.”

The name Supima®, an abbreviation for superior Pima, is a licensed trademark owned by Supima. The brand is used to promote textile and apparel products made of 100-percent US Pima cotton.

“With today’s trend toward luxury goods, the consumer is looking for high quality and is willing to pay for it,” said Buxton Midyette, marketing director, Supima. “Consumers are really beginning to pay attention to the fiber content of what they buy — what fiber is used and the quality of that fiber.”

Another recent trend for Pima is a move into coarser-count yarns.

“A lot of Pima is going into the lower counts that have traditionally been the playground of upland cotton,” Glaspey said. “We’ve heard of Pima being spun all the way down to the Ne 20s to Ne 40s. Pima is traditionally used to [spin] Ne 50s to Ne 100s yarns.”

May 2005

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