Positive conditions heading into cotton planting for 2021

US weather risks set to dictate positive cotton market

As optimism about cotton markets grows so too does the need for industry to plan, prepare and get organised for the 2021-22 season

As optimism about cotton markets grows so too does the need for industry to plan, prepare and get organised for the 2021-22 season


Cotton fortunes rising from the ashes due to market and seasonal conditions.


The 2021 turnaround for cotton has been nothing short of astonishing.

Compared to this time in 2020, production has made a comeback, demand has risen from the ashes, prices have recovered and water availability has returned to much of the Murray-Darling Basin.

As some growers seek to pick cotton to fill on-farm storages, we can't ignore the remarkable change in fortune.

And as optimism grows, so too does the pressing need for the industry to plan, prepare and get organised for the 2021-22 season.

If we have learned anything from 2020, it is that a global pandemic makes for volatile and unpredictable markets.

On the fundamental side, there are key countries that dominate global price direction in cotton.

These are China, India and Brazil - to name a few.

But Rabobank believes it is the US that will become most influential this season.

There are a couple of reasons for this, including that US exports have become extremely important in satisfying global demand - particularly from China.

In a world rife with geopolitical tension, the US is being relied on for the bulk of import demand.

Also there are already serious questions about future US production - and the crop hasn't even been planted yet.

At 12 million acres, the US cotton area forecast by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in-line with Rabobank's projections.

Amid strong prices for alternative crops - corn and soybeans - it is almost exactly the same cotton area as in 2020.

When we adopt this figure into future scenarios, along with conservative long-term assumptions for abandonment and yield, Rabobank notes a 0.5 million bale year-on-year decline in America's 2021-22 stocks.

This may not seem significant, but it comes off the back of a 40 per cent year-on-year fall in US stocks through the 2020-21 season and, if realised, would mean domestic stocks are at a five-year low.

Now apply the usual seasonal risks - US dryness and hurricanes.

Ahead of planting, there is widespread prevalence of dryness in Western Texas. This is a state that is set to account for almost 57 per cent of 2021 US plantings.

The lack of moisture arguably follows the La Nina weather pattern, which brings moisture to eastern Australia but dryness to the southern US states.

Furthermore, early forecasting by the Colorado State University predicts an above-average 2021 hurricane season.

With this is mind, suddenly our projections for a 0.5 million bale erosion in US stocks start to grow bigger if these risks turn out to be reality.

Tighter US stocks mean less availability for exports and, in turn, become a longer-term supportive force for the international cotton price.

To add fuel to the fire, global cotton consumption is expected to fully recover back to pre-pandemic levels in 2021-22.

Cotton prices have been as volatile as ever in early 2021.

The short-term impacts of China, speculation and mill urgency are contributing to seasonal highs.

But Rabobank's latest fundamental analysis points to a longer-term supportive factor in terms of 2021 US production.

Eroding stocks in Australia likely means price support in the latter part of the year, while weather risks make for a volatile journey ahead.

So, as the local industry makes preparations ahead of 2021-22 cotton planting, it might provide some confidence that the world may soon need this Australian cotton.

The coming months are sure to be a bumpy ride.

So, keep one hand on your hat and the other on your marketing.


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