The California cotton outlook has not been a positive one for 2020 but there is still optimism within the industry that assistance will be coming. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected world demand for cotton, bringing much of the industry to a near standstill. Industry members have been encouraging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include pima cotton in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to provide some relief to growers.
“We’re holding out hope. We think we made a good case for pima. It certainly met the criteria, there definitely was a price drop from January to April due to COVID,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association. “If you’re a grower of pima, you know it dropped; it dropped significantly. We think we’ve provided the data to USDA to make a pretty good case and we remain hopeful that it will happen.”
The scope of COVID-19’s impact has created problems in every major cotton market worldwide. California growers are still working to sell last year’s crop and with the closure of retail outlets and milling facilities, it makes it even more difficult. “Unfortunately, we export every bit of California cotton. It goes to India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Mexico and so until those mills in those countries get opened up, we’re going to struggle,” Isom explained.
Although market conditions and prices have been damaged by the pandemic, the California cotton outlook in terms of overall crop conditions actually appears to be very positive. Isom noted that despite a decline in acreage this year, the crop itself looks to be a good one. Pest and weather conditions have been relatively favorable thus far. Even with the promising crop outlook however, California growers are going to need some type of assistance to help offset the loss of demand.
“We’re just going to remain hopeful that either they open CFAP back up for pima cotton, or it gets addressed in the CARES 2 package,” Isom noted. “One of the two is going to happen I feel confident about it. That will help us kind of get back on our feet and we’ll see where it goes from there.”