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Domestic fiber makers feel foreign influence

Retail Editor 5, Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 21, 2002

The American fiber producing community continues to be buffeted by global competition.

The Asian equation, which in the 1990s had been focused on the apparel side of the textile market, now has reached into the home furnishings segment, both in bed and bath and upholstery/decorative fabrics. Across all home textiles product lines and in upholstered furniture, both producers and retailers are moving sourcing offshore.

While domestic synthetic fiber production and pricing declined from 2000 to 2001, the U.S. cotton crop increased in the same time frame and is expected to increase even more this year. Prices may inch up a bit this year from 2001, but will be nowhere near matching the price level of 2000.

Domestic production of polyester fiber recorded a major slide from 2000 to 2001 with filament dropping from 1,489.0 million pounds to 1,237.4 million pounds and staple dropping from 2,275.3 million pounds to 1,947.6 million pounds.

Domestic production of nylon fiber was 1,643.7 million pounds for filament in 2001, compared with 1,842.6 million pounds for the prior year. Similarly, nylon staple production dropped to 642.2 million pounds from the 2000 level of 712.4 million pounds, according to the American Fiber Manufacturers Association.

In contrast, the cotton crop for 2002 is pegged by the USDA at 20.08 million bales, a sharp increase from last year's 17.19 million bales and significantly higher than 2000's crop of 16.97 million bales, the National Cotton Council reports.

Looking at prices, the National Cotton Council's Kent Lanclos cited growers' prices of 48.59 cents for 2000, 34.5 cents for 2001 and 36 cents to 37 cents for this year. For the A index, European delivery, Lanclos sees a slight recovery for this year, at 43.5 cents, up from 2001's 40.5 cents but significantly lower than the 57.2 cents for 2000.

In the acetate arena, prices have held at about $1.90 a pound over the three-year span, said Keith Nagy, sales director for Celanese Acetate. There was an attempt to increase prices in mid-2000, but it did not succeed.

In the polyester sector, a typical 150 POY filament in 2000 ranged from 64 cents to 75 cents a delivered pound, in comparison with last year's range of 50 cents to 75 cents. In polyester staple, using a 1.5 denier, the 2001 price was 49 cents to 57 cents a delivered pound, compared with 51 cents to 58 cents in 2000, PCI of England reported.

Looking at the market here and overseas, Ira Livingston, senior vp, Cotton Inc. remarked, "There is an obvious level of the price of the raw fiber that is an important dynamic to the industry, even with competitive pricing in the United States."

Livingston sees the reduction in U.S. capacity being filled by imports. He added, "We were not caught short in this. We are a global operation and we continue to develop new products, new fashion and send the cotton message to consumers."

The big challenge to the U.S. textile industry, he believes, "is getting consumers to buy more."

Looking at the global picture, Celanese's Nagy sees the situation about the same. In the home area, "We see continued use and growth in curtain fabrics and in velvets and duvet covers because of the rich colors and effects. In upholstery, it's not that great except in the high-end furniture lines."

Key U.S. fiber production

*total domestic crop
**total domestic production
Cotton* (mill. bales)
'00 16.97
'01 17.19
'02 20.08
Nylon filament** (mill. lbs.)
'00 1,842.6
'01 1,643.7
Nylon staple** (mill. lbs.)
'00 712.4
'01 642.2
Polyester filament** (mill. lbs.)
'00 1,489.0
'01 1,237.4
Polyester staple** (mill. lbs.)
'00 2,275.3
'01 1,947.6


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