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US cotton harvest under threat

An extreme drought in parts of Southern parts of the US is threatening to wipe out of half this year’s US cotton crop, despite farmers devoting more space to the crop.

The US Department of Agriculture has said that US farmers had boosted space for cotton crops by 23% this year, to 13.7m acres, but the region’s worst drought in nearly a century means that 41% of that is now rated “very poor to poor”.

The US is the third largest cotton producer in the world after China and India.

According to reports, it would be the highest level of poor quality cotton since the mid-1980s, when records began. The news will add to clothing manufacturers and retailers woes, many of whom are already struggling with increased costs and squeezed margins from rocketing commodity prices.

The high prices had encouraged farmers to plant more cotton but the dry weather is expected to force farmers to abandon about 4.8 million bales.

Cotton prices are reported to have dropped back slightly to $1.49 (£0.93) per pound; having peaked at $2.40 (£1.50)per pound in late 2010. That figure is still around double the price of a year ago.

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