California’s ‘Lowest Cotton Acreage’ in History Expected This Year

Brian GermanCotton, Field & Row Crops, Industry

Even with the positive water outlook for growers this year, cotton acreage is taking a big hit. President and CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, Roger Isom said it is tough to tell how low the acreage will be this year. But plantings will be well below average numbers.

Cotton Acreage

“I think by far, it’s going to be the lowest cotton acreage in the history of planting cotton in California,” Isom noted. “I’d say somewhere at this point, between 50,000 and 90,000 acres in total, which is brutal when you consider it.”

Wet and cold weather that lasted well into April was one of the challenges growers were facing this year. Planting Pima cotton past the middle of April can be a risky endeavor, with the potential for low yields if rain comes in early Fall. Additionally, the rainy weather throughout Spring this year created substantial flooding issues. “We flooded the Tulare Lake basin where we grow quite a bit of cotton. In some years, as much as a third of the California cotton crop is in that Tulare Lake basin,” Isom explained.

Upland cotton can be a good option for growers when facing a short season. However, Isom said that prices are “less than $0.90, so that’s not very attractive.” Competition with other commodities has also contributed to the low cotton acreage. Continually increasing prices paid by canneries over the past few years have made tomatoes a more lucrative option. This year canners have agreed to a contract price of $138 per ton, marking an increase of nearly 32 percent from 2022. “Then other commodities like safflower, lettuce on the west side, and garlic. Prices are up and people are looking for growers to plant it or land to lease to plant it. So, there were some other challenges that we might not see in a typical year, or haven’t seen in a while,” said Isom.

With lower cotton acreage, it does present an opportunity for growers who were able to get planted at the optimal time. Global demand has slowed down some, but there is not an abundance of cotton currently in the global market. “I think the guys that did get it in and end up with a decent crop are going to do very well because, especially on the Pima side, there’s just not a lot of supply worldwide for quality Pima. For the guys that got it in on time and get a crop harvested, they’re going to do quite well,” Isom noted.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West