The Heat Is Online

Texas Cotton Crop Devastated by Heat, Sandstorms

Texas cotton crop hit hard by sand storms and heat


Reuters News Service, Jun 18, 2008


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Blowing sand and blistering heat have badly damaged the cotton crop in Texas, the country's biggest grower, industry analysts said.


The losses in Texas, which is expected to plant 4.7 million acres of cotton out of the 9.5 million acres planted in the United States, range from 500,000 up to 1.5 million acres, they said.


While most of the country's attention was riveted by the devastating floods which drowned large swathes of the U.S. Midwest cropland, farms in Texas were savaged by heat, wind and blowing sand which scythed through emerging cotton plants.


"We're going to take a hit on total production," Carl Anderson, an influential cotton economist who had worked with Texas A&M University, told Reuters in an interview.


"I am writing off 1.0 million acres in cotton," he said. "I will stick with 1.0 million because others are talking of (losses up to) 1.5 million acres."


Roger Haldenby of Plains Cotton Growers, which monitors the largest cotton growing area in the Lone Star State, said there were between 500,000 and 1.0 million acres which "are in desperate need of rainfall."


Recent rains in the area may have come too late to save the cotton, with Anderson saying the blowing sand over the past few weeks "absolutely killed a lot of that cotton."




The question uppermost in the minds of the cotton trade right now is how much of a hit U.S. cotton production in 2008/09 will sustain, especially since Texas was expected to produce half of the crop this season.


Anderson said the losses should lead to a fall in U.S. cotton output to around 12.5 million to 13.0 million (480-lb) bales, against the estimate by the U.S. Agriculture Department that the U.S. would harvest 14.5 million bales this season.


Other analysts believe the rains in the area threw a wrench into most analysts' estimates about those losses, and it would take time to unravel them.


"It sure muddies the picture," Sharon Johnson, cotton expert for First Capitol Group in Atlanta, Georgia, said in a separate interview.


She said the recent rains and prospects for more showers during the week may slightly lower the losses. "It sure makes the situation not as dire, but we have a long way to go."


Mike Stevens, an analyst with brokers SFS Futures in Mandeville, Louisiana, said the rains in Texas meant that "nobody has a good handle" on how this would affect production and yields.


Haldenby explained that half an inch of rain in Texas may just dampen the fields and another round of blowing sand could batter cotton plants this summer.


"It clouds the picture as to what the losses are likely to be," he said. "We're definitely looking at a moving target."


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