Cotton Update from West Texas after hurricane attack

Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

All eyes are on Texas since last Friday, when hurricane Harvey hit South East Texas. Major industrial sectors in Texas such as cotton, oil refinery and transportation have been hard hit by the natural disaster. Harvey has faded to be a depression now, but the loss to lives and properties have been huge. There have been over 30 fatalities and damages are in billions.  The global impact has been such that my friends from Indian cities, Chennai and Ahmedabad have been asking about my wellbeing although I live in West Texas. Harvey has put Texas in the living rooms of many living some ten thousand miles away.

Cotton fields in South Texas have been flooded with harvested modules damaged. This would of course, impact ginning and the quality of the harvested crop.  While Harvey was about to make landfall late last Friday, cotton industry people met in the Plains Cotton Growers’ office in Lubbock. Discussions centered on Harvey’s potential impact and cotton production this year. Industry leaders and participants at the last Friday meeting had South Texas cotton industry in their minds and were hoping for the best.

While touring Lubbock, this week, Dr. Kater Hake, Vice President, Agricultural and Environmental Research at Cary-based Cotton Incorporated showed me some pictures of damages to the cotton fields in South Texas, which he has received, that showcased damages to modules sitting in water flooded fields.

This year’s crop in South Texas has been mostly harvested, with tremendous yields as high as 3.5 to 4 bales in some fields. It is the cotton from this region that gets exported first every year. Mother Nature’s havoc would certainly influence ginning and the export of cotton from the belt that was hard hit by Harvey. This has also influenced the market, but over long run fundamentals will set the price right.

Turing attention to High Plains, the epicenter of cotton activities, away from the Harvey zone, weather has been pleasant. Mood is upbeat about this year’s cotton and there will be a lot of cotton. High Plains’ crop is looking good with less insect pressure. Weed issues have been well controlled. “Tremendously clean fields”, stated Peter Dotray, Professor of Weed Science in Lubbock.

Given the congenial weather so far, there will be a bumper crop in Texas. Hopes are high such that expectations for Texas ‘ crop will be about 9.5 million bales with High Plains contributing as high as 5.75 million bales. These expectations are higher than the latest projections from USDA, which was 8.8 million bales from Texas and about 5.2 million bales from High Plains.

“I am optimistic about good crop this year coming along,” stated Hake while touring Lubbock region, this week. Similar optimistic picture is also prevalent in India, with regard to its cotton crop this season.

“It all depends upon good warm weather between now and September-October time frame”, cautioned, Shawn Wade of Lubbock-based Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. Let us hope for the best for South Texas’ cotton industry.