Hard Numbers About a Soft Product

Cotton doesn't grow on trees ... but it does grow and therefore unlike manufactured goods, it is subject to a number of variables, both natural and man-made.
     On this page is some basic data about cotton that puts the recent run-up in prices into some sort of a context. Most important is the historical pricing timeline for cotton, going back 30 years. While cotton in current dollars is as high as it's ever been over these past three decades, when inflation is figured into the equation, there's a very different story. It's not that cotton is the most expensive it's ever been, it's that cotton has been relatively inexpensive for the past decade. And so the price is high only relative to recent history, not over a longer period of time.
     The two other charts on this page show where cotton is grown and where it's used. Again, the perception of many people that the United States is the prime player on both sides of that equation turns out to be inaccurate. As with many things in the global economy today, China is the No. 1 supplier and the No.1 user of cotton. And its Asian neighbors are very much in the picture.
     When it comes to cotton, just as you have to separate the boll from the stems, you have to separate facts from fiction to get to the heart of the matter.

Cotton Pricing 1980-2010 That Was Then, This is Now 
Cotton Pricing

Where the Cotton Comes From
More than half of the world's cotton now comes from Asia

Where the Cotton Goes
Unlike the good old mill days, very little cotton is used in the United States

Cotton Comes
Cotton Goes
Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

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See the May 2017 issue of Home & Textiles Today. In this issue, we discuss our annual Market Basket survey, which finds higher prices and more polyester at leading retailers. See details!