USDA is projecting a 17.8 million-bale U.S. cotton crop this coming year and the largest export potential for the natural fiber in 76 years.

The nearly 18-million bale crop figure is based on a projected area of 14.7 million acres. Domestic mill use is projected at 7.8 million bales, a 2.6-percent increase from the current marketing year. Exports are projected at 11 million bales, the largest exports since 1926-27. Ending stocks are likely to drop 1 million bales to 6.7 million, about 36 percent of total use.

The agency projected world production and consumption for 2002-03 at 91 million bales and 95.5 million bales, respectively, reducing world stocks almost 10 percent to 40.6 million bales.

U.S. rice production in 2002-03 is projected at 208 million cwt, down 2 percent from 2001-02 but still the second-largest crop on record.

Rice prices are expected to continue to be under pressure from intense competition among the major exporters as well as burdensome domestic supplies.

The U.S. 2002-03 corn crop is projected at 9.94 billion bushels, up almost 5 percent from last year, based on prospective plantings reported in March.

U.S. corn exports are projected up significantly because of less competition from foreign exporters. With use exceeding production, 2002-03 ending stocks of corn are down slightly from the forecast carry-in level.

Worldwide, Argentine corn plantings and production are expected to drop this coming year, reflecting better expected returns from other crops. Brazil is not expected to have corn supplies available for export until its 2002-03 main crop is harvested in January-March 2003.

Expanding production and large stocks are expected to result in China's corn exports remaining relatively large, according to USDA.

U.S. soybean production will decline about 40 million bushels to a projected 2.85 billion bushels, based on intended soybean plantings of 73 million acres and a trend yield of 39.7 bushels per acre.

Projected 2002-03 use of wheat is down 4 percent from last year while domestic use is up slightly due to expanding food use. However, projected exports of 875 million bushels are down 100 million bushels from the 2001-02 forecast and would be the lowest since 610 million bushels in 1971-72.

The smaller exports are due to smaller U.S. supplies, shrinking global imports, and intense competition. Although total use is declining, it will exceed production plus imports and result in a further drop in U.S. ending stocks. However, U.S. prices will receive little added support from the declining stocks due to the bleak export prospects, USDA says.


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com.