Tempered Expectations for Cotton Plantings Despite Improved Water Outlook


Cotton plantings over the past few years have been significantly impacted by drought conditions and constrained water supplies. Minimal water allocations have prevented many growers from taking advantage of some of the good prices for cotton. Now even with a better start to the water year, there is still a bit of trepidation in the industry.

President and CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, Roger Isom said there are still questions as to where water supplies will end up in spring. There is also a question of prices moving forward. Isom noted that prices for Pima have not dropped, but there is still some mild concern   

“There’s not a lot of Pima moving. It’s kind of flattened out. Part of that is the strength of the U.S. dollar and just the overall worldwide economy. But we need that to soften for us to get growers back. Then there are other commodities,” said Isom. “While cotton is doing very well, especially on the Pima side, so are tomatoes which we compete directly with and so is garlic. So, I think those are going to be more than competitive and I think will temper how much more cotton gets planted.”

Several storm systems have helped improve reservoir storage levels in California. However, there will still be limitations as to how that water will be allocated and used. Isom said that acreage of cotton plantings will not all of a sudden double this year even with the improved water supplies. But growers are optimistic that demand for Pima cotton will remain strong, driving good prices for producers.

“Worldwide demand is typically 700,000 to 800,000 bales. We’re probably going to produce 400,000 [bales] this year. So, we’re not meeting the worldwide demand regardless,” Isom explained. “So, we’re going to walk into another year where there’s not a lot of carryover, if any. So, prices are going to stay strong regardless of what happens.”

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