The World's Crisis in Cotton

Courtesy Reuters

IT IS now generally admitted that the world is confronted with a serious shortage of American cotton. It has taken three successive years of failure to convince the cotton trade that the conditions under which the American crop was produced in the past have changed radically and permanently. It is now quite clear that whereas before the war the American crop used to average about 15 million bales, and had touched 16 million and 17 million bales in two record years, we cannot now look for an average of more than 10 or 11 million bales; and a crop of 12 or 13 millions would literally be a godsend.

On the other hand, it is equally clear that such a reduced crop is entirely inadequate to meet the world's needs. Only once within the last twenty years at least has the world's total consumption of American cotton been as low as 10½ million bales. That was in the great deflation season of 1920-21, under conditions which are not likely to be repeated in any future year. During the past two years the annual consumption has been about 12¾ million bales in spite of the depressed or disturbed conditions which still prevail in many parts of the world. It may therefore be taken as definitely assured that the world wants at least 12 million bales per annum, even for its minimum requirements; and that same figure, on the other hand, represents the probable maximum of the crop. Such a situation can only result in periodic scarcity until the supply is increased. It therefore becomes of the first importance to consider the prospects of such an increase.

In discussing the world's supplies of cotton it is first of all necessary to recall that "cotton" is not a homogeneous unit, but an aggregate of many different varieties of cotton, coming from practically every country in the world from 45° north to 30° south of the Equator, and varying very widely in character and value and in the uses to which they may be put. It is

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