China is growing less cotton — millions of bales less — and that spells opportunity for the U.S., despite China having 50 million to 60 million bales of its own cotton sitting in reserves.

“Three years ago, China produced 35 million bales; two years ago, 32 million bales; last year, about 31 million bales,” says O. A. Cleveland, Jr., Extension economics professor emeritus at Mississippi State University and a veteran cotton analyst.

“ As we move into 2015, unless something happens we’re going to see their production drop another 5 million bales, and by 2016-17 another five million bales — down to 20 million bales,” he said at the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Cotton Policy Committee.

“Within just a five-year period, they will have gone from 35 million bales of production all the way down to 20 million bales,” he says.

China’s textile industry “will remain very strong — perhaps not the size it is now, but still exceptionally strong. Much of the investment they’ve been putting into bricks-and-mortar and machinery is starting to go to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.

Vietnam is booming, busting at the seams,” Cleveland says. “I was there several months ago, and it’s just exploding.”

GET THE LAGEST AG NEWS delivered daily to your inbox: Subscribe to Delta Farm Press Daily

The Chinese government, he says, is insisting that the country is moving to a free market economy for both cotton and soybeans, and that they’re willing to let prices fall as the market dictates.