Market Requirements in Cotton

Cotton is cultivated to meet various purposes, which may vary according product availability or market interests. The main cotton products are cotton fiber, cottonseed, cottonseed cake, hull and bran.

Cotton Fiber

Most cotton fiber is consumed by the textile industry. 50% of the world’s textile fiber is cotton. There are several qualities of cotton depending on the species grown, and they are classified according to fiber length.

Long staple 

Fiber length of this cotton varies between 25 and 65 mm. Mostly grown in Egypt, Sudan, Haiti, Peru, and the USA. Called Egyptian, Pima or Sea Island cotton (G. barbadense). 

Medium Staple 

This is the most grown cotton (G. hirsutum), also called Upland Cotton. Fiber length is between 15 and 35 mm. Grown mostly in China, India, Brazil, Argentina, USA etc. 90% of global cotton is this type. 

Short staple 

Fiber length between 8 and 25 mm. Considered low quality cotton and mostly grown in China and India.

Specifications of the fiber depends first of all on the variety grown, agro-climatic conditions and crop management practices. The latter will determine whether the plants meets its varietal potential. 

When classifying cotton, the fibers can be divided into six categories based on commonly perceived competitive relationships between cottons of differing quality, variety and geographic origins. This classification is roughly parallel to staple length categories, but incorporates more than just staple length information. This is due to the fact that two cottons of equal length might actually have significantly different spinning characteristics. 

  • Extra fineFine and High medium cottons are typically used in ring spinning destined for combed yarn
  • Medium cotton is used in ring spinning for carded yarn
  • Coarse count is used for producing open end yarn
  • Waste/padding is the most inferior product

Cotton is a traded commodity and is sold according to type. When other factors are equal, spinners will pay a higher price cotton that has longer, finer and more resistant lint that is fully mature, white and bright. Globally, the market share of medium and higher grades is rising, and the market for Coarse count quality is declining. 75% of world trade is now Medium and higher grades of Upland cotton, amounting to 7 million tons. The most remunerative and fastest growing market for Upland cottons is for the higher grades and finer cottons being used for the production of ring spun combed yarns for woven and knitted textiles.

Other products derived from the cotton plant

Apart from fiber, the cotton plant supplies seeds that can result in a variety of products. Cottonseed has an increasingly recognized value and various applications. It is an good source of protein and oil, and can supply human food or animal feed and even biodiesel.

Cottonseed stands out as an alternative in ruminant diets, with positive impact on yield and quality of animal products. Its use is recommended by nutritionists for presenting high energy, protein and fiber contents. Hence it is considered a “complete” food, combining protein and energy. 

Refined cotton seed oil is used for human consumption, i.e. cooking, margarine etc. Non-refined is used in soap, feed, fatty acids and other industrial appliances. 

The cottonseed cake is a by-product from oil extraction, useful for animal feeding. Two types of cake are produced: high-energy cake (5% oil), from mechanical crushing, and with low protein content; low- energy cake (less than 2% oil), from chemical crushing, and with high protein content. Cottonseed cake supplies protein, and can replace cottonseed or bran, especially in ruminant diets. 

Cottonseed hulls comprises the outer layer of cottonseed. It is a high fiber product, with low protein and energy levels, interesting as an alternative bulk feed. 

Cotton bran is a residue from the cotton seed oil production. The extrusion process gives cotton bran a better digestibility compared to high-energy cottonseed cake and fresh cottonseeds. It is a good protein source, replacing soybean bran, and is an excellent product for feedlots and protein supplement of animal under grazing. It promotes increase in lactation and weight gains, and is available throughout the year.


Cotton Crop Nutrition – Finding the Right Program

Creating the right nutrient management strategy in Cotton production is not a “one-size-fits-all” prescription. Cotton is grown in vastly different environments with differing soil conditions and yield potentials. Any nutrient program needs to be designed for these variables. But where do you start? Find these answers and more in this free webinar by Cotton Grower.

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Trey Cutts
Trey Cutts
Market Development Director