USDA's first production assessment of the season projects much smaller U.S. crops, which is not too much of a reach since cotton, corn, rice and soybeans all posted records in yield and/or production in 2004.

Of course, the projections could still change drastically, as evidenced by last year's monthly increases in expected cotton production as the season progressed. The May 12 projections are based on USDA's March 31 Prospective Plantings report and assume normal weather. Spring planting is still under way in many areas as well.

The first U.S. projections for this season start with a 19.5 million-bale cotton crop, 16 percent below last season. Domestic mill use is projected down 8 percent to 5.8 million bales. The estimate does not include impacts from potential safeguards on China textile imports currently under consideration by the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements.

Meanwhile U.S. exports are projected to reach a record 14.5 million bales, supported by strong growth in China's import demand.

Ending stocks are expected to fall 11 percent to 6.3 million bales, or 31 percent of total use.

World cotton production is projected to drop sharply in 2005-06, from nearly 120 million bales to 107 million bales, with ending stocks projected to fall about 8 percent. China's planted area is expected to fall about 15 percent from last season due to low prices at harvest.

Projected world cotton consumption of 111.5 million bales is based on continued expansion in textile demand and favorable cotton prices relative to polyester. A sharp increase in world trade driven by anticipated China imports of 15 million bales is nearly double last year's levels. World ending stocks are projected at 45.2 million bales.

SOYBEANS: U.S. soybean production is expected to fall 8 percent from last season's record crop to 2.895 billion bushels. Ending stocks for 2005-06 are projected at 290 million bushels, down 65 million bushels. Large U.S. soybean supplies combined with lower-than-expected Brazilian stocks this fall are projected to boost U.S. soybean exports to record levels.

CORN: The 2005-06 U.S. corn crop is projected at 10.985 billion bushels, 7 percent below last year's record. U.S. corn exports are projected higher by 150 million bushels due to less competition. U.S. corn ending stocks are projected at 2.54 billion bushels, up 325 million bushels, and the largest since 1987-88.

RICE: U.S. rice production in 2005-06 is projected at 225 million hundredweight, 5.8 million hundredweight below last year's record. Rice yield is projected at 6,751 pounds per acre, down 191 pounds per acre or nearly 3 percent from the 2004-05 record. The lower yield partially reflects that a smaller share of the 2005-06 crop is planted to higher-yielding medium-grain rice produced in California. Total supplies are projected at a record 278.9 million hundredweight, 4 percent above 2004-05.

Meanwhile, global rice production is projected at a record 410.3 million tons, up about 8 million tons from 2004-05. World consumption is projected at a record 416.6 million tons, up 3.2 million tons.


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com