California cotton acreage is expected to decline significantly this year. The National Cotton Council (NCC) announced its projections at its recent Annual Meeting. California is forecasted to experience an overall decrease in acreage of 25 percent. Pima acreage is expected to drop more than 26 percent down to 108,000 acres. Upland appears to be a little stronger, declining less than 18 percent down to 28,000 acres. The decline in acreage can be attributed to a multitude of issues that all center on uncertainty facing the industry.
“Price is still a bit of a concern even though it has improved a lot. There’s a lot of growers who really have a bad taste in their mouth from last year’s COVID experience at a time when there really was no market,” said Mark McKean, chairman of the American Cotton Producers of the NCC and Riverdale producer. “They couldn’t sell their cotton for a long period of time even if they tried to. Basically, the price was zero and they were having to pay the cost of storage on that cotton.”
The uncertainty of COVID also remains a major concern for growers. Flareups of COVID have the potential to completely upend global markets in a similar fashion that was seen in early 2020. McKean explained that recent trade wars have also raised concern about how the new administration will be addressing trade issues. For California producers in particular, water remains one of the greatest concerns. The drop in cotton acreage reflects an expectation of disappointing water allocations after a relatively dry winter thus far.
“If this thing doesn’t get a little better with the water situation, I may drop some cotton acres off the list and just leave them idle. I know it’s a tough thing to talk about but it’s the reality and it’s what a lot of people are doing,” McKean noted. “Depending on what federal contractor and state contractor allocations come out as being, this could actually get worse than what it is right now as far as acreage.”