The participants represent 23 companies in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey. Those companies are expected to consume about 2 million bales in 2003, and consume an average of 700,000 U.S. cotton bales annually.

“This is one of the most extensive groups to ever participate in this event,” said Bobby Carson, president of Cotton Council International. “This tour provides a wonderful opportunity for U.S. cotton to strengthen ties with these important customers. These companies not only spin a large amount of U.S. raw cotton, but their countries represent a very healthy market for cotton consumption. ”

The Marks, Miss., cotton producer said the 11 representative countries are expected to consume 18 million bales in 2003. This represents 26 percent of the total cotton consumed outside the United States. These countries annually import about 10 million bales of which 4.5 million are U.S. bales, a whopping 40 percent of U.S. cotton’s total worldwide sales.

Participants in the annual COTTON USA Orientation Tour will visit a farm and gin in California’s San Joaquin Valley, observe cotton research in North Carolina and Mississippi, and tour the USDA cotton classing office in Bartlett, Tenn., and the American Cotton Growers Denim Mill in West Texas.

They will meet with exporters in the four major Cotton Belt regions and get briefings from CCI, the National Cotton Council, Cotton Incorporated, the American Cotton Shippers Association, the Texas Cotton Association, AMCOT, the Western Cotton Shippers Association, the Plains Cotton Growers Association and the Lubbock Cotton Exchange.

The Washington, DC-based Cotton Council International, which is the National Cotton Council’s export promotions arm, is dedicated to increasing U.S. exports of cotton, cottonseed and U.S.-manufactured products.

Some 740 textile executives from more than 60 countries have toured the U.S. Cotton Belt via CCI’s Orientation Tour, which was initiated in 1968. The Tour’s specific objectives are to increase these U.S. cotton customers’ awareness of the types and qualities of U.S. cotton, help them gain a better understanding of U.S. marketing practices and enhance their relationships with U.S. cotton exporters.

Over the years, the Tour has led many foreign textile manufacturers to develop an appreciation for U.S. cotton fiber quality and has furthered the U.S. cotton industry’s reputation as a reliable supplier. The tour continues to be an excellent vehicle for helping U.S. cotton capture additional market share overseas.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com