Top Cotton Buyers Flock To India After Hurricanes Hit US Crop

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The world's top cotton buyers, all in Asia, are flocking to India to secure supplies after fierce storms in the United States, the biggest exporter of the fibre, affected the size and quality of the crop, dealers said. In the past week alone, India, the world's second-biggest cotton exporter, sealed deals to sell about a million bales to China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia – key garment suppliers to brands such as H&M, Inditex-owned Zara and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

That compared with 300,000 bales in the two weeks before. Dealers expect contracts similar to last week in the next few months, which could help India's exports grow by a quarter in the 2017/18 season beginning October.

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“Indian cotton has great chances this year," said Chirag Patel, chief executive at Jaydeep Cotton Fibres Pvt Ltd, a leading exporter. Asian "buyers are switching to Indian cotton from the U.S.”

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused widespread damage to the crop in Texas and Georgia, major cotton producing states, with the effects more widespread in Texas, dealers said.

“We definitely lost cotton in Texas. It wiped out 500,000-600,000 bales,” said Peter Egli, risk manager at Plexus Cotton Ltd, a Chicago-based merchant, referring to the impact of Harvey in the top-producing US state. In 2016, the United States exported 86 percent of its cotton, 69 percent of which went to Asia, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

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Other cotton producers like Brazil and Australia could benefit from lower supplies from the United States, but may find it difficult to match the price offered by India.

Traders in India, also the world's biggest cotton producer, signed their export deals at around 80 cents per lb on a cost and freight basis, nearly 2 cents lower than the supplies from the United States, dealers said.

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