Commodity prices around the world have been relatively low since the late 1990s, and 2002 cotton prices remain about 30 percent below the 1990-94 average. While prices of some major field crops have recovered from their recent lows, cotton and rice have been left behind, says USDA in its October 2002 Agricultural Outlook summary.

Global ending stocks for cotton, rice, wheat, corn, and soybeans are all expected to fall during 2002/03, but cotton and rice prices defy the rising trend currently enjoyed by other crops. Stocks are contracting substantially more for wheat, corn, and soybeans than for cotton, particularly in the U.S. China's role in world cotton and rice consumption is greater than for the other crops, and China appears likely to continue the cotton stock reductions initiated several years ago.