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    Global Markets: Cotton – Highest U.S. Product Imports in 11 Years Support Record Consumption

    The United States imports nearly all the cotton products (i.e., cotton apparel, home textiles, etc.) that U.S. consumers purchase in retail outlets. U.S. imports of cotton products in calendar year 2021 were the highest since 2010 and are expected to further support forecast record cotton consumption in marketing year 2021/22 (Aug-Jul).

    The United States is the largest importer of cotton products, and the country’s demand is a significant factor in the quantity of cotton spun into yarn, hence a harbinger of global cotton lint consumption.

    According to data from the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textile and Apparels (OTEXA), 2021 imports of cotton products were $49 billion, comprised of more than 21 billion square meter equivalents (SME) and boosted by strong U.S. consumer demand for cotton apparel and home textiles (e.g., towels, bed sheets, etc.). U.S. consumers devoted more discretionary income to goods relative to services in 2021 amid ongoing COVID-19 limitations.

    As a portion of consumers continued working from home, appetite for comfortable and soft knitted garments boosted demand for cotton apparel, and strong U.S. home purchases and improvements necessitated new home textiles. Moreover, pent-up demand from the previous year and an increase in discretionary income also boosted imports after 2020 U.S. cotton product imports fell to the lowest level in nearly 20 years.

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    China remained the largest cotton product supplier for the 19th consecutive year. This was despite Section 301 tariffs implemented in 2019 amid the U.S.-China trade dispute and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Withhold Release Order on all cotton-derived products from the Xinjiang autonomous region.

    This area produces more than 90 percent of China’s cotton. However, imports from China have fallen from a record 8.0 billion SME in 2010 to 5.1 billion SME in 2021. Other countries have made significant strides since that period – imports from India, Vietnam, and Bangladesh were all records in 2021.

    Both U.S. cotton product imports and global cotton consumption trend closely. For the first 5 months of marketing year 2021/22 (Aug. – Dec.), U.S. cotton product imports have remained robust, and December 2021 was a record for the month. Despite rising inflation concerns for consumers, strong U.S. disposable income and recently strong imports are expected to further support record 2021/22 global cotton consumption.

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