Cotton Outlook: U.S. Net Textile and Apparel Imports Steady in 2016

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U.S. net textile and apparel fiber imports were stable in calendar year 2016, near 2015’s record. In 2016, net imports approached 15.8 billion raw-fiber-equivalent pounds. Total fiber product imports reached 19.3 billion pounds in 2016, compared with 19.6 billion pounds in 2015. Meanwhile, textile and apparel product exports totaled 3.5 billion pounds in 2016, compared with nearly 3.8 billion pounds.

With synthetic product imports rising for 7 consecutive years, cotton’s share has declined steadily during this period. For the last 3 years, synthetic products have accounted for the largest share of total net imports.

In 2016, synthetic textile and apparel products contributed 50 percent of total net imports, while cotton products supplied 43 percent and linen, wool, and silk products provided an additional 7 percent. Compared with 5 years ago, the contributions have been reversed.

In 2011, cotton accounted for 50 percent of the total net imports, while synthetics provided 44 percent.

Domestic Outlook

U.S. Cotton Supply and Demand Revised in March

The U.S. cotton crop for 2016/17 increased 271,000 bales this month to 17.2 million bales (upland at 16.7 million bales and extra-long staple at 565,000 bales) based on data in the March Cotton Ginnings report. The latest 2016/17 estimate is one-third larger than the previous season’s crop and would be the largest since 2012/13.

USDA will release the final U.S. cotton production estimate for the 2016 crop on May 10. Based on the current crop estimate and beginning stocks of 3.8 million bales, the 2016/17 cotton supply totaled about 21 million bales, 27 percent more than last season and the largest since 2010/11. With the larger supply, total demand for U.S. cotton is also projected higher.

For 2016/17, U.S. cotton demand is estimated at 16.5 million bales, similar to the total reached in 2012/13. While U.S. mill use in 2016/17 is estimated at only 3.3 million bales, exports are forecast to rebound significantly to 13.2 million bales.

Through the first half of 2016/17, U.S. textile mills used 1.6 million bales of cotton, compared with 1.7 million bales a year ago. Mill use during the second half of the season is expected to improve slightly. In contrast, U.S. cotton exports in 2016/17 are projected to increase nearly 45 percent from a year ago.

Cotton Commentary

Increased supplies in the United States in 2016/17, along with a higher foreign import demand and reduced competitors’ exports, are expected to push U.S. cotton exports to a 6-year high. As a result, the U.S. share of global trade is forecast to rise as well to nearly 37 percent, the highest since 2010/11.

U.S. cotton export commitments through the first 7 months of 2016/17 totaled 12.1 million bales, compared with 7.2 million bales for the corresponding period last season.

Shipments during 2016/17 have reached 7.3 million bales, or 55 percent of the current export forecast. At the comparable period during 2015/16, shipments had achieved only 44 percent of final exports. Weekly exports remain strong, averaging over 400,000 bales during the latest 6-week period.

Additionally, for the week ending March 2, U.S. cotton export shipments surpassed 500,000 bales, a first for the season and one of the largest shipment weeks recorded since the early 1970s.

With U.S. cotton demand below production for the third consecutive season, stocks are estimated to rise moderately. For 2016/17, U.S. ending stocks are projected at 4.5 million bales, 700,000 bales or 18 percent above 2015/16. However, based on the supply and demand estimates, the 2016/17 stocks-to-use ratio is projected to decrease slightly to 27 percent.

The average price received by U.S. upland cotton producers is expected to rise from 2015/16’s 61.2 cents per pound to range between 67 and 70 cents per pound. At the midpoint of 68.5 cents per pound, U.S. prices would be the highest in 3 years.

U.S. Retail Cotton Consumption

Declines in 2016 U.S. domestic cotton consumption (mill use plus net textile imports) decreased slightly in calendar 2016 to approximately 8.5 billion (raw-fiber-equivalent) pounds, or 17.6 million bale-equivalents.

Despite a reduction from 2015’s 8.7 billion pounds, 2016 was the second highest in 6 years. However, the 2016 retail cotton consumption estimate remains more than 20 percent below the record set in calendar 2006.

U.S. cotton product imports and exports both moved lower in 2016 as polyester continues to gain share at cotton’s expense. Cotton product imports approached 8.6 billion pounds in calendar year 2016, 3 percent below 2015; at the same time, cotton product exports declined 7 percent to 1.7 billion pounds in 2016.

Meanwhile, 2016 U.S. cotton mill use slipped to 1.6 billion pounds. As a result, the U.S. per capita estimate of retail cotton consumption decreased nearly a pound to 26 pounds in 2016, with U.S. mill use of cotton accounting for 5 pounds of the total.

Full report.

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