Global Markets: Cotton – Lower Stocks, Higher Consumption, Production Since Outlook Forum Forecast

Cotton bales in gin warehouse. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

The current USDA forecast shows global 2018/19 production at 119.4 million bales, down 3.5 percent from the previous season. At the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum in February 2018, production was forecast at 117.0 million bales. Much of the increase is attributed to better-than-expected crops in Brazil, China, and Turkey.

Global use is also higher than originally forecast. Consumption is currently projected at 126.9 million bales, up 2.9 percent from the previous season, whereas the February Outlook forecast had consumption increasing only 2.0 percent. Forecasts have edged up in most major markets as higher polyester prices have made cotton more competitive, and global macroeconomic conditions have supported higher end use.

While the higher production forecast mostly offsets higher consumption, global ending stocks are now forecast at 72.6 million bales, 10.1 million lower than the 82.7 million shown at the Outlook forum. Nearly all the reduction in 2018/19 stocks is due to lower estimates for 2017/18 ending stocks, driven largely by historical revisions in October to several countries’ balance sheets, particularly India’s.

In addition to lower stocks, the current forecast shows a greater decline in those stocks during the current season. Global stocks are now forecast to fall by 7.8 million bales compare with the 5.8-million-bale decline expected last February.

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China’s ending stocks are now forecast at 29.9 million bales, 8.2 million lower than beginning stocks. This compares to a 7.3-million-bale decline seen in February’s initial forecast. As polyester prices have risen, and China’s internal cotton prices have moved closer to world prices in 2018, consumption has expanded and resulted in higher consumption in both 2017/18 and 2018/19. This results in a drawdown of China’s stocks. Ending stocks outside of China, however, are now forecast up 400,000 bales versus the 1.4-million-bale increase expected in February.

Bottom line: China’s stocks are projected to continue to trend lower, while stocks outside of China expand, albeit slightly, for the fourth consecutive year.

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