To strengthen its export market for raw cotton, the U.S. cotton industry must improve staple length and quality and educate foreign spinners about U.S. fiber, according to Robert Antoshak, president of Globecot, a news and consulting firm based in Nashville.

Antoshak, speaking at the 2004 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio, pointed out that dramatic shifts in global textile production have created a growing export market for U.S. cotton, while domestic consumption continues to shrink.

“Because of these shifts, close attention has to be paid to quality, price, cotton varieties and education. In the long-run, supporting export sales will be a real challenge going forward, particularly in China,” he said.

Antoshak recently returned from a trip to China, “and I was literally stunned by the sheer size of that industry. A large percentage of that industry is antiquated.”

On the other hand, the industry “is in the process of being scrapped and completely overhauled. As new technology is brought on line and more investment made, China will not only become a consumer of cotton for end use product export, but the domestic market of China will continue to consume more and more cotton for their own market.

“As their standard of living rises, then the consumption of apparel and textiles rises, which is a long- to longer-term prospect for U.S. cotton producers.”

Antoshak noted that China and other foreign countries are increasingly importing spinning equipment that can run longer staple cotton. “That's a key point for many of the growers in the United States, where a shorter staple has traditionally been sold.”

According to a survey of 100 spinners worldwide conducted by Globecot, the biggest concerns about U.S. cotton are reliable shipping, quality and price, according to Antoshak. “Nearly 100 percent said micronaire and staple length were most important in their buying decisions. Color grade was important. Not surprisingly, price was a very important consideration, as was supply, shipping and reliability.”

Most of the respondents ran U.S. upland, Australia and African, and some Chinese cotton. “Most ran combed and carded yarns, ran slightly more ring-spun than open-end yarns, and ran mostly coarse and medium yarns. Many were just starting to run U.S. cotton, and we were interested in their perspectives.”

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com