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Cotton prices to surge as demand grows more

With world cotton consumption exceeding production for a second straight year, cotton prices are forecast to rise in lock step, advancing by roughly 15 percent for the 2003-'04 cotton year, to 64 cents a pound, up from 56 cents a year ago.

That upward move takes prices up by more than 52 percent over the past two years, from just 42 cents in 2002. During the 2002-'03 cotton year just ended, prices surged by a third, to 56 cents a pound from 42 cents.

The International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC), a world consortium of cotton growers, said cotton consumption this year is forecast to rise to 21.2 million tons, exceeding production — pegged at 20.2 million tons — by almost 5 percent. Given the stepped-up demand, ending inventories, which decreased by 1.8 million tons last year, are forecast to shrink by another million tons this year, to their lowest level in the past nine cotton growing seasons.

But with higher cotton prices driving increased production, cotton prices are expected to moderate in 2004-'05, declining to 61 cents a pound, as production starts to catch up with demand, ICAC forecast.

Driving much of the stepped-up demand for cotton is China, where bad weather is forecast to hurt this year's cotton crop, forcing China to import more.

Imports by China are now expected to jump up by more than 28 percent this year, to 900,000 tons from 700,000 tons last year.

WORLD COTTON SUPPLY AND PRICING FORECAST
(in millions of tons, except for cotton prices)

2002/03 (actual) 2003/004 (proj.) 2004/05 (proj.)
Source: International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC)
Production 19.26 20.21 21.91
Consumption 20.83 21.20 21.58
Cotlook A Price Index 0.58 0.64 0.61


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