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Cotton Quality Seminar

Creating Demand In The Global Marketplace

By Carroll Smith
Senior Writer

As mill machinery becomes more sophisticated, and consumers around the world become more affluent, the demand for quality cotton is higher than ever. However, competition from other countries continues to bite into our market share.

Speakers from the turnrow to the retail segment shared their thoughts on “Creating Demand In the Global Marketplace.” More specifically, creating demand for high quality U.S. cotton in the global marketplace.

Following is a recap of what each speaker presented to the audience.

Fiber Identity Preservation

Richard Shaw, Certified FiberMax manager for Bayer CropScience open-ed the seminar by emphasizing that the Certified FiberMax Program seeks to create demand and open access to global markets for FiberMax cotton.

“A majority of the world’s mills associate Certified FiberMax cotton with quality,” he says. “They ask for it by name. Our goal is to secure a supply of high quality cotton to meet today’s global demand.”

Shaw explained that the Certified FiberMax Program consists of maintaining the fiber’s identity preservation via registered bales.

“We’re working with a select group of Certified FiberMax merchants – CropMark Direct, Allenberg Cotton Company and Olam Queensland Cotton group,” Shaw says. “These merchants have agreed to partner with us in promoting Certified FiberMax in the world market as premium fiber. The Certified FiberMax Program with its registered bales certifies to the mills that they are getting FiberMax cotton.”

Grassroots Niche Marketing Group

Kelli Merritt brings an interesting background to the table. She is a FiberMax cotton producer who farms more than 1,600 acres of cotton in Lamesa, Texas, and is a member of the FiberMax One Ton Club. Merritt also is a licensed commodity broker and the president of CropMark Direct, a grower-directed company involved in niche marketing of Certified FiberMax on an international scale.

“We can grow premium quality cotton, and through CropMark Direct, we are proactive in taking Certified FiberMax to value-added end users,” Merritt says. “We want to get growers more involved in marketing, particularly marketing a specific product to specific people.

“As growers, we are always going to grow the cotton that pays,” she adds. “We intend to weather the good and bad years and are committed to providing the mills the value-added cotton that they want.”

Brand Value At Retail Level

Paul Cavazos, a native Texan and the director of marketing of Olah Inc., works with apparel research and development. Currently, he is involved in developing awareness and creating demand for 100 percent Certified FiberMax cotton fabric at the retail level. Stores he works with include Banana Republic, Marc Jacobs, Eileen Fisher, Theory and L.L. Bean.

To introduce Certified FiberMax to retail stores, Olah needed two things – a unique story and a product.

“The unique story of Bayer Crop-Science’s effort to set up a system to track FiberMax cotton from the field to the mill is key to creating demand,” Cavazos says. “But along with the story, we must have a product. Different stores need different products, and it’s our job to make Certified FiberMax cotton fabric appealing to vastly different stores.”

To accomplish this goal, Olah developed FiberMax fabrics, made garments from the fabric, then presented them to retailers at the Kingpins’ fashion apparel event in New York and Los Angeles and to customers during their buying season.

The next step was to build awareness. To do this, Olah began to tell the FiberMax story. The “hook,” so to speak, was transparency, or the ability to track the cotton through the Certified FiberMax Program.

“The value of the program is transparency,” Cavazos said. “Retailers appreciate this.”

The Evolution Of Quality

Cliff White, senior vice president of marketing for the Olam/Queensland Cotton group, says the Australian company has always been aware of the importance of quality cotton. Twelve years ago, the company expanded its business to the United States where White witnessed the evolution of quality in the premium arena.

The first cotton quality leader was California-SJV, then Australia and now Texas Certified FiberMax and a looming competitor, Brazil.

White did note that the company isn’t directly competing with Texas FiberMax cotton by buying from Brazil because the Brazilian crop is ready at a different time and fills in the gap before the new U.S. crop comes in.

“The whole supply chain is looking for improvements in quality and targeting 30 to 35 million bales worldwide,” he says. “And why is quality so important? Increased spinning mill requirements call for quality cotton that is contamination-free, and consumers, as well, are demanding it. It’s important to have product – Certified FiberMax – to hit this small target.”

Signal To The World

Like Cliff White, Dan Sullivan, senior trader with Allenberg Cotton Co., reiterated the fact that cotton quality is more important than ever today because new spinning machinery requires higher quality cotton to achieve optimal production efficiencies. In fact, China has released new rules and regulations pertaining to quality, which is a signal to the world that this is what they require.

“Staple length and strength are key quality parameters,” Sullivan says.

He also suggested that ginners may be over-ginning cotton and described an experiment in California where some gins are dropping lint cleanings and reducing the heat.

“The quality evolution in the United States is phenomenal, and the demand for quality is increasing as the Chinese and Indian middle classes are getting more affluent,” Sullivan told the crowd. “The United States must be relentless in the search for cotton quality and is doing well, especially with Certified FiberMax.”

High Plains’ Intensive Management

Steve Newsom, a FiberMax cotton producer located near Levelland, Texas, told seminar attendees, “I love to farm, and I love to grow cotton. I’ve been very impressed with the Certified FiberMax Program and the individuals involved with it.”

Newsom, who attended the Cotton Quality Summit sponsored by Bayer CropScience in Dubai, says this was his first opportunity to sit down one on one with mill representatives to discuss what they want and tell them about the environmental stewardship of cotton farmers and the intensive management level of cotton farmers on the High Plains.

“On the High Plains, intensive management is a way of life to survive,” he says. “We have limited rainfall and few options to rotate. FiberMax came in and fell right into what Texas was trying to do. We went from shooting for mediocre yields to producing some of the best yields and quality cotton.”

Certify Your Bales

Doug Wilde, a FiberMax cotton producer in San Angelo, Texas, attended the Cotton Quality Summit, sponsored by Bayer CropScience in Jakarta, Indonesia, along with other cotton producers, merchants, mills and retail and fashion industry representatives.

“The mills wanted to know, as producers, how we feel about sticky cotton and what we are doing to prevent contamination,” he says. “I told them only the best farmers grow FiberMax cotton, and we manage it as well as we can to reduce the incidence of sticky cotton and avoid contamination.

“I was appreciative of the opportunity to visit with a mill operator and convince him that Certified FiberMax cotton is better than the cotton from Australia,” Wilde adds.

The Texas producer also noted certain things that FiberMax producers can do to guarantee that the Certified FiberMax Program will work.

“As producers, we need to certify our bales and give the Certified FiberMax merchants a chance to market our cotton,” Wilde says. “This program labels your product as the best in beating the competition, so we need to manage our crop to attain that quality.”

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or csmith@onegrower.com.


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