Cotton Strives To Stay Competitive

By Tommy Horton
Editor

Cotton CompetitivenessEven though cotton acreage has decreased across the United States, the industry is taking an aggressive approach in how to reverse this trend. That was the familiar theme heard at Cotton Incorporated’s “Cotton Competitiveness Conference” recently conducted in Raleigh, N.C.

Organizers of the event offered a program that presented timely updates from planting to consumer trends at the retail level – all in an effort to find new strategies for the future.

Kater Hake, Cotton Incorporated’s vice president of ag and environmental research, set the tone for the session in his opening remarks.

“We want to think long-term and also think like a farmer in this meeting,” he says. “Whether it’s planting decisions or marketing the crop, we want to facilitate the process for our industry.”

The one-day program was divided into five sessions:

• It Starts From The Beginning.
• The Next Steps In The Chain.
• Water – The New Oil.
• Keeping Supply Chain Sustainable.
• Market Trends And Engaging The Modern Consumer.

Setting Reachable Goals

What made all of the presentations effective, according to attendees, was the emphasis on what the industry must do to recapture demand and cotton acres.

Dr. Andy Jordan, retired director of Technical Services for the National Cotton Council and now an independent industry consultant, says it all comes down to “improved efficiencies.”

“It was an impressive conference,” he says. “I liked how the program looked at the supply chain from plant breeding and production all the way to the consumer. I am very encouraged that cotton can indeed be competitive as we look to the future.”

Jordan’s presentation dealt with a key cotton flow issue – moving cotton effectively from field to gin. Although this might seem like a small part of the supply chain, he says retailers are becoming more interested in what happens in the field.

“The retail sector is very interested in what happens to cotton during every stop in the production process,” he says. “This, in turn, gives us an opportunity to share some very important information.

“We heard some reports that show how we can recapture markets, if we can maintain stability in prices and implement new customer promotions from Cotton Incorporated.”

Value Of Ag Research

Ed Barnes, Cotton Incorporated’s senior director for ag and environmental research, echoed Jordan’s remarks during his presentation on effective water usage in cotton production.

“The conference really exceeded my expectations,” he says. “We covered topics from planting all the way to the retail level.”
Barnes says one of the reasons why he is optimistic that cotton can recapture demand is innovative research. He likes what he sees in the pipeline as it pertains to efficiencies that increase yields.

“We’re producing more cotton, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t continue trends toward higher yields,”
he says.

The bulk of Barnes’ presentation dealt with how cotton production continues to use water efficiently. He believes cotton has a good story to tell on this issue.

“Our critics like to portray water consumption as a disadvantage for cotton compared to synthetics,” he says.

“In reality, because cotton is drought tolerant, it is the only crop still standing when water is scarce. For that reason, cotton will play an important role for farmers around the world when they don’t have the water to irrigate another crop.”

Barnes further points out that USDA statistics show that cotton’s water consumption has decreased consistently for the past 20 years, while yields have simultaneously increased.

“Our farmers know how to manage water,” he says. “They also know how to protect this valuable resource.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or thorton@onegrower.com.

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