The United States ended MY 2016/17 with cotton exports totaling 14.9 million bales, including 614,000 bales of extra-long staple cotton and 14.3 million bales of upland cotton. This represents the highest exports since 2005/06, when the United States exported 17.7 million bales.
Exports concluded the year well above the levels initially forecast by either USDA or private forecasters. Both rising U.S. crop estimates and rising global consumption helped account for this increase.
Predicting which countries would import these high volumes of U.S. cotton was challenging, given that China’s imports remained quota-constrained throughout the year and reserve sales introduced 14.3 million bales into private supplies.
For the second year in a row, Vietnam was the largest importer of U.S. cotton, coming in at nearly 2.8 million bales. The U.S. market share rose to 50 percent last year and the country’s spinning sector has continued to show robust growth this year.
Exports to the Indian subcontinent also rose sharply, with India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh combined representing the second-largest U.S. trading partner. Two years of smaller crops in Pakistan, high domestic prices in India, and extremely rapid growth in mill demand in Bangladesh all helped drive these high shipments.
As production recovers in Pakistan and India, it may be challenging for U.S. exporters to maintain these levels of sales, although demand in Bangladesh is expected to continue to grow.
As the U.S. market share in China recovers from the extremely low level seen in 2015/16, exports to China are expected to figure prominently in the upcoming year. Exports to traditional U.S.-led markets such as Turkey and Mexico have not exhibited appreciable growth.