Global Markets: Cotton – How Big a Role Did China Play in 2019/20?

Ginned cotton bale coming off conveyor at Mill Creek Gin. ©Debra L Ferguson

In the 2019/20 marketing year, China accounted for just over 22 percent of total world cotton production, of which 86 percent of that was produced in Xinjiang province (just under 20 percent of the world total).

China exports only a small amount of cotton lint, half-of-one-percent of production. Other than some minor exports to North Korea, most remaining exports are reexports of foreign cotton from consignment warehouses.

In addition, China is the world’s largest importer of cotton. This provides China with a supply of cotton normally greater than one-third of world use and nearly 40 percent larger than India.

Roughly 70 percent of the cotton spun into yarn in China originated in Xinjiang Province; imported cotton accounted for just over 20 percent, and cotton grown in the inland areas of China the remainder. While Xinjiang supplied much of the cotton spun, it is estimated that only 20 percent of the spinning activity takes place in Xinjiang.

While most the cotton spun in Xinjiang was grown in the region, both imported cotton and cotton from the inland areas are also spun in the region.

China is a top-ten importer of cotton yarn, with Vietnam being the largest supplier providing nearly half of China’s imports. Vietnam relies almost solely on imported cotton for its cotton spinning sector, and exports over half of yarn production to China.

The United States supplied over half of Vietnam’s cotton import last season; in fact, U.S. exports to Vietnam were more than 50 percent greater than U.S. domestic use and over three-quarters as large as U.S. cotton exports to China.

China is also a top exporter of cotton yarn along with India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Uzbekistan. The vast majority of China’s yarn exports would be Xinjiang cotton, as much of the yarn produced with imported cotton is destined for further processing within China. China’s top markets are Vietnam, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, which are major suppliers of textile and apparel for the United States.

China reports cotton fabric exports to over 120 countries, accounting for around onethird of global trade. Roughly three-quarters of fabric exports are likely of Xinjiang cotton. Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Philippines are the top markets for China’s fabric. The United States is the largest destination for exports of textiles and apparel for Vietnam and the Philippines, and second behind the EU for Bangladesh.

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