The Cotton situation


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The Cotton situation
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United States -- Dept. of Agriculture. -- Economic Research Service
United States -- Agricultural Marketing Service
United States -- Bureau of Agricultural Economics
Economic Research Service, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. ( Washington, D.C. )
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Bureau of Agricultural Economics i -P'-.ITOfT

CS-20 -----------M---------------------.- June 27, 1938.


Cotton mills of the world were, on the whole, apparently somewhat less

active in May than in April and probably 25 to 30 percent less active than in

the exceptionally favorable month of May last year, according to reports re-

ceived by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Meager reports pertaining to

the first half of June indicate slight increases in some regions and further

declines in others, with the rate of consumption possibly declining by about

the usual seasonal amount.

Cotton textile production in this country during May when adjusted for

seasonal variations was slightly higher than in April, but was 38 percent below

May last year. Despite the low level of output, manufacturers' sales of cotton

goods were again below production during a substantial part of May. In the

first half of June mill sales improved considerably, and preliminary informa-

tion indicates that mill activity when adjusted for seasonal changes, showed

some increase over the last part of May.

Reports from European cotton textile centers stated that for the most

part manufacturers' sales of cotton textiles in May remained below the materially

restricted production. Consumption was considerably (probably 10 to 15 percent)

below that of May last year but it was not nearly so much below a year earlier

as was consumption by United States mills (36 percent).

Cotton mill activity in China continues exceptionally low. In Japan

mill consumption in May was 22 percent less than May 1937, but in India mill


activity continued at cr near the record levels of recent months.

The continued unfavorable developments in the world cotton textile

situation contributed to the decline of about 1 cent per pound in domestic

cotton prices during the last half of May. In the first 3 weeks of June,

however, an advance of 1 cent occurred, with Middling 7/8 inch cotton in

the 10 markets on June 24 averaging 8o79 cents per pound. While this was

2/3 cent below the high reached so far in 1938 end 2f cents below the high

for the season, it is approximately 1 cent above the season's low.

From the standpoint of supply, interest is now primarily centered on

prospects for the 1938-39 world crop. In foreign countries cotton acreage in

1938 is expected to be considerably less than in 1937. This is especially

so in the case of China where the acreage is now estimated at cnly about one-

half that of 1937 and the crop is very tentatively estimated at only a

little over 60 percent of the 1937-38 harvesting. The first official esti-

mate of the acreage in cultivation in the United States will be issued by

the Bureau on July 8.


Domestic cotton prices declined about 1 cent per pound during the
last half of May, but by June 24 had recovered all of this loss. On May 13
the average price of middling 7/8" cotton in the 10 designated spot markets
was 8.79 cents,slightly higher than early in the month and about the same
as at the end of April. Prices trended downward during the second half of
the month and on May 31 averaged 7.76 cents, the lowest since early November
and only O.11 cent above the low point at that time. Since the end cf May
a fairly steady rise has occurred in domestic cotton prices and on June 24
the 10-market average was 8.79 cents.

During the latter part of Moy Liverpool prices of the principal types
of Indian cotton declined more, and in the first 2- weeks of June advanced
less, than the price of American 7/8" cotton. As a result the price of

- 2 -


-. 3 -

American cotton at Liverpool on June 17 was higher re,these growths
than for many months. When expressed as a percentage6-of'-American Middling
and Low Middling, three principal types of Indian cottoa (Brofch, Oomra and
Sind) on June 17 averaged 79.5 percent compared with 81.5,percent during May,
and was the lowest such ratio for more than a year. On the. same, date the
price of Egyptian Uppers averaged 121.3 percent of the price o.-A American Mid-
dling compared with 119.8 in May, 130.6 in June last year.


Exports of American cotton in May totaled 193,000 running bales corn-.
pared with 324,000 bales in May 1937, a decline of 40 percent. February and
March were the only other months of the current season in which exports were
lower than a year earlier; in those months exports were smaller by 18 percent
and 9 percent, respectively*

For the 10 months ending May 31, a total of 5,227,000 bales of American
cotton was exported. This total represented a gain of only 140,000 bales or
3 percent over exports during the corresponding period last season. As trade
statistics indicate that exports during the first 20 days of June were materi-
ally below a year earlier total exports for the year ended July 31 may fall
below the 5,440,000 bales exported during the 1936-37 season.


UNITED STATESt Manufacturers' sales of cotton textiles increase

During the 2 weeks ended June 18, sales of cotton cloth by domestic
mills picked up considerably and apparently exceeded the restricted output
by a substantial margin. In the last half of May, however, reports show
that sales were less than production. Preliminary indications are that the
improvement in sales during the first part of June was accompanied by a
moderate increase in cotton mill activity.

In May, the Federal Reserve Board's index of cotton consumption ad-
justed for seasonal variation was 81 percent of the 1923-25 average. This
was slightly higher than April, but 38 percent less than May last year.

For the 10 months ended May total ccttorn consumption by domestic
mills amounted to 4,864,000 running bales, according to data released by
the Bureau of the Census. This was 27 percent less than in the correspond-
ing period last season, but slightly larger than the average for those months
during the 5 years. ended with 1936. The average daily rate of consumption
during May amounted to 19,600 bales. Should this rate be maintained during
June and July total, consumption this season would amount to a little less
than 5,700,000 bales. There is, however, usually a substantial decline in the
daily rate of consumption in June and July. Should the daily rate in these 2
months decline as much in relation to May as on the average during the last 10
years, consumption-for the 12 months ending July 31 would-total only 5,500,000
bales. In the 1936-37 and 1935-36 seasons domestic mill consumption of all
cotton totaled 7,950,000 and 6,351,000 bales, respectively.

MPg 1/ Sales and output continue restricted

The European cotton textile industry continued to report unfavorable
conditions during May and early June, Declines in consumer incomes as a
result of the economic recession in the industrial countries and the reduced
purchasing power of the overseas raw material areas were cited as adverse

With further declines in raw cotton values and prospects for an all-
tIne high carry-over of raw cotton into next season, the wholesale and retail
textile trades continued to show a "waiting attitude." Both export and domes-
tic business remained depressed or experienced even further restriction. I-n
Germany, however, demand for textile goods remained large and mill activity
continued at a high level despite reduced exports..

In Great Britain further stoppage of spindles and looms was reported.
The percentage of unemployed among those registered as cotton textile workers
rose to 25 percent in April, compared with 10.3 percent a year earlier. In
France weaving mill activity seems to have been measurably reduced. French yarn
and fabrics stocks are considerably above last year, and unfilled orders on
hand much below. Depression in the cotton industries of Belgium, Holland and
Switzerland continued, with mill activity considerably reduced. The outlook
for the Italian cotton industry for the next few months is reported as un-
promising, with export business very unsatisfactory and severely hit by the
Egyptian tariff. In Czechoslovakia mill activity is 20 to 25 percent below a
year ago.

United Kgdom

The faint signs of improvement discernible in the demand situation in
Great Britain during April largely faded in May. The European political un-
certainties through most of the month and the weakness in prices of commodities
generally, were depressing factors. Further stoppage of machinery was reported
both in the spinning and weaving industries. And, although cloth prices have
been severely cut, sales were said to have been below the rate of current
deliveries and barely half of normal production. Cotton takings in April and
May were at the extremely low levels usually seen only in'-the holiday weeks of
late summer. There was apparently a little more inquiry at the new low level
of cotton prices prevailing at the end of the month, but some of this was
presumably for the purposes of testing prices of goods. Market comment con-
tinues, however, to refer to the accumulation in trade channels of yarns and
goods contracted at higher prices.

For many manufacturers the home market was said to have been the only
source of orders in May, although a moderate export business with India and
some of the smaller Far Eastern markets was reported. The generally depressed
state of export trade was reflected, however, in shipments both of yarn and
cloth which for the 9 months from August 1, 1937, were 10.9 and 14.8 percent
respectively below those of a year earlier. In April exports of yarn were

- Based largely upon a report prepared 4n the office of the Agricultural
Attache, London, England, dated June 9.


were 32.2 percent and goods 30.5 percent below those of April 1937. And in
May, exports of piece -oods were 32 percent below a year earlier, and the
smallest for any month since prior to August 1900, the earliest month this
Bureau has these data recorded.

Three recent developments basically unfavorable to the export trade in
textiles have contributed to the unsatisfactory situation or are of importance
with respect to the outlook. The increase in Egyptian import duties by
amounts from 70 to more than 100 percent in April brought new business with
that market virtually to a standstill. The resumption of trading with Egypt
which took place in May apparently was on a very restricted scale& In Columbia,
the second market of South Arerica in point of importance to Lancashire, sus-
pension of licenses for the import of a wide range of cotton goods and the
initiation of steps to increase duties, concurrently with the denunciation of
the British-Colombian Trade treaty of 1866, had for the time being brought
about a cessation of business with that country. Further, on May 23, announce-
ment was made that the trade mission to India has found it impracticable to
continue negotiations with the Indian industry for more favorable tariff treat-
ment of Lancashire textiles .imported into India. The matter now reverts to
the Governments for adjustment if possible, in the pending negotiations for
a new trode agreement to replace the Ottawa agreement, denounced by India but
continued under a temporary extension.

The depressed state of trade has been urged upon the Government as a
reason for an Enabling Bill to permit unified action in the control of prices'
and competition, retirement of obsolescent equipment and recovery of exports.
On May 31, the British Board of Trade announced its intention to begin draft-
ing a bill along the lines proposed by the cotton textile industryls represen-
tatives. It is expected that the draft will be submitted for discussion by
the trade and if the plan is favored by a substantial majority, the bill will
be introduced in-Parliament early in the next session. So far, however,
opposition shows but few signs of abatement.


Cotton mill activity in Germany during May and the early part of June
was well maintained, despite reduced export sales, of cloth. Spinning mills
in the Rhineland for the most part were working at full capacity. The new
raw material allotment system is gradually becoming workable, it is reported.
Under this system special raw material allotments, are made for export orders;
a so-called raw material premium (additional allotment). of. 50 percent is
granted for Governmental orders and "economically specially important" fab-
rics; a premium of 25 percent is given for "basically necessary goods"; and,
more recently, an intermediate raw material premium '.f 33.-153 percent is being
allotted for "perferred basically necessary articles." In this way the auth-
orities attempt to assure adequate fulfillment of orders placed on behalf of
Governmental agencies, and to eliminate shortages along special lines of
textile requirements, such as bed linen and underwear. Standardization and
simplification of textile types in the retail trade is also being advocated
as a device to reduce waste of raw material and misdirection of production,




1 1 ,2 :

1.;5 1936 1937 I/
1 ,,I.- 7i-'1--,/ Millb. 2T

German production of wool .....
German production of reclained :
wool Y ..o........*..o. ... .:
Net imports *............
Total supply ......
German production of reclaimed :
cotton 5/ .. ,........
Net imports ............,:
Total supply ........
Net imports ............ ...
Synthetic fibers:
German proI-uction of rayon ..:
Germua.n production of cell-
wool .....................:
Net imports ...............Z
Total supply t.................
German production ...........:
Net imports *................:
Total supply ..... :
German production *...........**:
Net imports *................
Total supply ... ...... .... .:
Manila and hc-nmp ranie:
Net imports ................
Dct imports .. ..... ...... :
Total textile raw materials:
Gorman production
Net imports ,................:
Totil supply ............,:





64.2 66.1 76.1 99.2
194.9 190.5 136,9 141.1
---7,116 -2-'2 22".8 257.7

48.5 52.9
770.7 81.,9
81.2 86,.8























94.6 209.4
3.1 11.9
197.8 P24276











Germann production in p recent of:
total supply ..............

These data are as p r "Warum Aussenhandcl", by
Berlin, 1938. Cited from Frankfurter Zeitung,
1/ Figures partly preliminary.
SFigures were converted from metric tons and
/ Estimated.

Dr. Rudolf Eicke,
May 23, 1938,

4th edition,

totab in pounds are not adjusted.

6 -

German supplies of specified textile raw materials, in terms of
spinnable fiber, 1932, 1935 to 1937


N ;

il _. L), 2 ." -ll


The latest compilation of Genrui textile raw material supplies and the
share of domestic production is shown in the following table. The increase
in the share of domestic production in total supplies from 15 percent in 1932
to 29 percent ih 1937 is an extraordinary accomplishment. Cell-wool production
for 193g is estimated from 150,000 to 200,000 tons, or roughly equivalent to
from 700,000 to 900,000 bales of h7S pounds.
In Austria it appears that the cotton industry is in a state of funda-
mental transition under increased and revised governmental regulations. Al-
though the Gernan system. of import control and manufacturing quotas has not as
yet been extended to Austria, imports are under a strict allotment scheme
administered by the currency authority in Vienna. Austrian spinners can no
longer buy raw cotton when, where and in such quantities as they please. A
marked decline seems likely to result in the consumption of American cotton
in Austria because of increased use of competitive growths, reclaimed fibers,
and synthetic fibers. It is said that the near future nay see the establishment
of Austria's production of cell-wool for which she has ample raw material

Since raw material is the main Droblem for the cotton industry in
greater Germany, Austrian mills m-nay carry the manufacturing proceas to a higher
stage than has been true in the past. Exports of cotton yarn by Austrian
spinners who exported almost half their yarn production in the past 2 years -
may be cut down in favor of supplying iore yarns to Austrian and German Weav-
ing mills. As a result, inprtation of cotton fabrics mi.-ht decline.


Conditions in the Czechoslovakian cotton textile industry continued un-
satisfactory during May and early June. The recession in general economic
conditions has impaired domestic consumer demand as well as export trade. As
a result of the recent German annexation of Austria it was feared that the
Austrian market might be lost to the Czechoslovakian industry. In late May,
however, the industr,- is said to have been more hopeful of continued
business with former Austria. If Austrian and
German wcavir:: mills draw heavily on the Austrian yarns that were hitherto
exported, Czech wea.-ing mills will probably lose part of the Austrian gods
market but Czech spinners mny find some additional demand for yarns, in
countries that were formerly supplied by Austrian spinners.

The official index of spinning mill activity fdr February the last
month for which records are available was 79.2 percent of the 1929 average
activity, compared with 74.6 in January. But since then it is likely to have
dropped again. The February figure, however, wcs more than 20 percent below
February 1937, and 7 percent below February 1936.


The devaluation of the franc in May does not seem to have had much
effect upon French cotton textile business. The position with spinners and
weavers was described as unsatisfactory during May, but in early June some
observers were said to be a little more hopeful.

- 7 -


Although spinning mil! occupation had held up well through March,
spinning as well as weaving activity, of the French cotton mills in April and
May seems to have been measurably reduced. Yarn production per spindle in
March the latest data available was 2.002 Kgs., compared with 1.811 in
February, and 1.851 in March 1937. As a result of lower weaving activity, yarn
stocks had risen to almost twice what they were in March 1937. Stocks of
fabrics also were abovo a year earlier, despite the smaller output, and unfilled
orders in weaving mills were 40 percent below March last year.


The depression in the Belgian cotton industry apparently continued
through May, despite reports of a marked increase in manufacturers' sales
around the middle of the month resulting at least in part to fears of devaluation
of the Belgian franc. Spinning mills are reported to have continued the
practice begun in April of closing down 2 days each week. The organized
stoppage during the first quarter of 1938 was 1 day a week. It is estimated
that, in 1937, over half of the Belgian production of cotton goods was exported.
This accounts in part for the fact that the Belgian industry is very sensitive
to developments pertaining to the gold or foreign exchange value of the Belgian

According to the annual report of the Belgian Cotton Spinnerst Association
yarn production of their member mills in 1937 was 37.75 Kgs. per spindle, com-
pared with 32.96 in 1936.


Expectations of a decline in cotton mill activity in Switzerland as a
result of the slump in new business have materialized. Spinning and weaving
mill activity is reported to have fallen to between 60 and 85 percent of
capacity. Despite the low level of activity, reports indicate that in May,
sales of cotton textiles were less than output,


In late May the outlook for the Italian cotton industry for the next few
months was still considered umpromnising. Although unfilled orders appeared
sufficient to keep mills running for some time at a decreased tempo, new orders
were reported difficult to obtain. The domestic market appeared to be well
stocked, particularly for this season of the year. Farmers, whose buying
power bulks heavily in the consumption of cotton textiles in Italy, will
probably have less money to spend next season. Serious drought and unseasonable
freezing have caused heavy damage in the cereal, frait and vegetable areas of
the north, and it is not expected that higher fam prices will offset the loss
in buying power resulting from the reduction in marketable supplies. The
decline in textile export sales continued and no revival was expected for some
months to come. The new Egyptian tariffs have affected Italy very gravely.

2/ From information received from the American Consulate General at Milan.


A further reduction in the activity of Italian spinning mills occurred
during February, the last month reported. The decline was not excessive, how-
ever, and the rate of spinning activity remained substantially above the year
previous. Cotton loom activity on the other hand, was still favorable and on
the increase (See tabulation.) Reports to the New York Cotton Exchange Ser-
vice indicate that in May and early June, spindle activity was probably some-
what lower than the comparatively high rate of activity existing in February
which was much higher than a year earlier, and higher than during most of the
past 4 years.

Italian cotton mill activity, 1934-38

S : Spinning mills, :Weaving mills,
Period :spindle hrs.worked:loom hrs.worked

SPercent of 1934 Percent of 1934
1934 ....... 100 100
1935 ....... 96.3 100.7
1936 ....... 84.6 92.0
1937 ....... 118.4 116.8
1937 (Feb.).,: 108.4 110.2
1938 (Jan.)..: 125.3 125.3
1938 (Feb.)..: 122.7 126.2

Italian imports of raw cotton through March continued to increase and
raised imports for the first quarter of 1938 about 10 percent above 1937.
Almost 70 percent of these imports came from the United States, compared with
only about 60 percent in the first quarter of 1937. More competitive prices
of American cotton this year are held as the reason for the higher share of
takings of American.

Latest data on Italian exports of cotton products show a substantial
decline, compared vrith a year ago.

ORIENT: Mill activity low in China and Japan, high in India

China including Manchuria 3/

During May cotton mill activity in China on the whole remained about the
same as in April but less than half the average for the 1936-37 season. Total
mill consumption of raw cotton was estimated at approximately 120,000 bales,
which is much higher than in the first 8 months of the season although only
47 percent of the unusually high average for the 12 months ended July 1937.

The demand for the limited yarn output by Chinese mills continued good
during May and some advance in price resulted. The recent greatly reduced

3 Based largely on radiograms from the Bureau's Shanghai Office dated June
14 and 15.

- 9 -

CS-20 .10 -

import duties on piece goods are not expected to increase materially the imports
into Shanghai from Japan in the near future. In North China, however, some in-
crease in imports is expected. Despite any gain in imports which may occur, it
is expected that in few months ccttcn consumption by mills in China
probably will equal or exceed the comparatively low level of May.

Arrivals of Chinese cotton at Shanghai from nearby areas continued in con-
siderable volume during May, with stocks at Shanghai quite heavy in relation to
consumption. Arrivals, as well as bookings, of non-Chinese growths continued small.

Japan 4/

Total takings of cotton by Japanese mills in May, 256,000 bales of 500
pounds, were about the same as in April and, in view of the strict regulation of
the raw cotton supply, were probably very nearly the same as consumption. If
mill takings in May this year were equal to cotton consumption then consumption
was 22 percent lower than in May last year and the lowest for the month since 1933.
For the 10 months, August through May, the estimated consumption of all cotton
amounted to 2,780,000 bales. This was 11 percent less than the record high of the
corresponding period last year. Total mill takings of cotton during the first 10
months of the current season were 45 percent less than a year earlier, with mill
takings of American and foreign cotton 44 and 45 percent lower, respectively.

Experts of cotton cloth from Japan in April amounted to only 138 million
yards which was 33 percent less than in April, 38 percent less than in May last
year and the smallest for more than 6 years. During the first 8 months of the
season, however, total exports were near the high level of the past 3 years,
despite the fact that during much of this period reports indicate sales were much
lower than in other recent years. It appears, therefore, that prior to May a
considerable proportion cf the cloth exported was based on orders which had ac-
cumulated earlier. It seems quite likely that Japanese manufacturers now have
comparatively few unfilled orders and that until a substantial improvement in
sales takes place, cloth exports will continue very materially below those of
the past few years.

A recent report indicates that effective July 1 the Japanese Government
will abolish all of its price and qucta controls pertaining to the cotton textile
industry except the quotas on raw cotton imports and the decree requiring the
mixture of rayon staple fiber with cotton in the production cf "cotton yarns"
used in Japan* While this will give Japanese manufacturers considerably greater
freedom in their operations there is some question whether or not it will
materially stimulate the consumption of raw cotton by Japanese mills.

SBased largely on radiograms frcm the Bureau's Shanghai Office dated June 21
and 22 transmitting information furnished by the American Consulate at Osaka.



- 11 -

Although .there was apparently some decline in Indian mill consumption
of cotton in May compared with April, consumption was still quite high relative
to most earlier years. With only 2 months of the season remaining unreported,
it seems likely that Indian mill consumption for the current season will exceed
any previous record.


United States Crop Prospects

The first official estimate of the 1935 United States cotton acreage
will be released July 8. Prior to that time cotton prices are being and will
be influenced by trade estimates of acreage. Reports indicate that on the
whole weather conditions during the 3 weeks ended June 21 were not particularly
favorable to the crop. In many areas rainfall was said to have been excessive
and cultivation retarded. The Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine
released a report or. June 14 indicating that cotton boll weevils were present
in moderately large numbers in most of the cotton fields of the country. In
conjunction with this situation it is significant to note that weather conditions
from late June to the end of July particularly influence the amount of damage
by the boll weevil.

In May the combined sales of fertilizer tags in g of the principal
cotton producing States -were -28 percent larger than in May last year and the
largest for the month on record. For the 6 months ended May, however, total
sales in these States were 13 percent less than in the corresponding period a
year earlier, but with that exception the largest for the period in 8 years.

Foreign Crop Prospects

Comparatively little information pertaining to the 1939-39 crop in
foreign countries has been received except for the Chinese crop.

In this important cotton producing country it has been estimated that
the 1938 crop probably would be only a little more than 60 percent as large as
the crop harvested in 1937. Such a crop would, according to Agricultural
Cbmmissioner, 8. L. Dawson at Shanghai, more than offset the increase in the
carry-over on August 1, 1938, over that of a year earlier, thereby giving a
smaller supply of Chinese cotton for the 1938-39 season than for the current

According to Mr. Dawson it is expected that the 1938 cotton acreage in
5 North China Provinces will be only about 50 percent as large as in 1937.
Important decreases are also expected to occur in most other cotton producing
areas of China. This is attributable to the fact that food crops are favored
when prices of cotton are low relative to those for food crops, to the fact
that the 1937 crop was difficult to market, and to the fact that heavy rains
and flood conditions are believed to have adversely affected plantings in
North China.


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