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World Cotton Production Doubles in Just Over 30 Years

December 18, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ World cotton production has doubled in about 30 years, going from 45.1 million bales in 1960 to 95.2 million bales in the 1991-92 marketing year, agricultural economists say.

Most of the production growth has been achieved through better yields, with acreage increasing only slightly.

Average yields on a global basis increased from 277 pounds per acre in 1960 to an estimated 535 pounds for 1991. During the same period, harvested acres increased only from 79.3 million to 86 million.

Emerging as competitors for U.S. cotton exports in the 1980s were China, India, Pakistan, Australia, Paraguay and the nine French-speaking nations of West Africa, according to a report in a recent edition of USDA’s Farmline magazine.

″The United States did, however, slightly increase its share of the world cotton market, averaging 27.5 percent for the decade, as exports by some other competitors decreased,″ said economist Carolyn Whitton of USDA’s Economic Research Service.

No other country exports as much cotton as the United States, she said.

In the 1960s and ’70s, about 40 percent of U.S. cotton production was exported. In the 1980s, that proportion rose to more than 50 percent, accounting for 6 percent of U.S. agricultural exports and earning the United States about $2 billion per year.

U.S. cotton prices have had to become more competitive to maintain market share in the face of the new competition, Whitton said.

The United States was the world’s leading cotton producer during the 1960s and ’70s. But China went from third to first place in the 1980s, setting a single-country production record of 28.7 million bales in 1984. Its production has dropped somewhat since then.

Some countries expanded production specifically to increase exports, Whitton said.

Australia, for instance, exported virtually no cotton in the early 1960s, but in the 1980s sold 84 percent of its production on the world market.

″Others, like China and India, expanded production in the 1980s mainly to keep pace with soaring domestic demand,″ the report said. ″Their exports grew, too, but still accounted for only about 6 percent of their production during the decade.″

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Agriculture Department has signed an agreement to help Venezuela reclaim tropical rain forests in the Guayana region.

Under the agreement, USDA’s Forest Service will provide a long-term adviser and several short-term working groups that will visit the region periodically.

″We will assist in education and training for Venezuelan resource specialists,″ said Forest Service Chief F. Dale Robertson. ″We will also facilitate research and cooperative studies on natural resources management.″

The five-year agreement calls for the reclamation of areas disturbed by small mining operations, including a major reduction in sedimentation and mercury contamination in streams and rivers.