If China continues to hold its reserves, bulls could stir once again as cotton supplies are drawn down “the closer we get to summer,” Merritt said. “We’re going to realize there really isn’t much cotton out there available. Most of it is out of the farmers’ hands at this point.”

But the market can always be counted on to do the unexpected, a good reason for producers to put on hedges, Merritt says.

“We are above breakeven where prices are now. As business operators, I think now is a good time to be locking in a third to a half of the crop and have a plan to get more of it hedged if this market moves up.

“If you're extremely bullish, get some contracts and buy calls. But just don’t fail to have a plan. Don't fail to pay attention to what this market is doing. There are always surprises.”

USDA’s March World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates were friendly to cotton. Noted Texas A&M Extension professor emeritus Carl Anderson, “China has been buying a lot of cotton in the last few weeks, which in turn lowered U.S. ending stocks to a workable level, 4.2 million bales, 300,000 bales less than last month.”

World carryover came in at nearly 82 million bales, “but we have to remember that 54 percent of that is in China,” Anderson said. “So the rest of the world has 46 percent of those stocks.”


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Another positive for price support are the unfixed call positions in December, “which are at the highest levels of the year,” Merritt said. “It’s also spiking fear in the mills, with the prices continuing to march higher.

Other observations about China:

Merritt said one reason to suspect China is quickly becoming a developed nation — they’re now starting to worry about rising labor costs.

China has already put in a 7 percent to 10 percent increase in prices for competing crops to cotton such as wheat and rice for 2013.

Chinese cotton policies have had an adverse effect on Chinese textile mills, Merritt noted. “They’re spinning less cotton in China now, and they’re importing a lot more cotton yarn than normal. In their domestic mills, they are going to more man-made fibers.”



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