The first USDA 2003 Pima cotton crop estimate projected a drop in acreage of almost 20 percent for the San Joaquin Valley.
However, with each passing April storm, acreage dropped even more. Some thought the 170,000 acres initial estimate was too low, but now 150,000 may be too high.
Steve Carnes, director of field services for the Supima Association of America, estimates only 110,000 acres had been planted by April 22 and 30 percent of that will be replanted or shifted to Acala varieties because it is too late to replant longer-season Pima.
“Some growers will plant until May 1, but the seven to 10 day forecast doesn't look good. I believe we may end up with only 130,000 to 140,000 acres,” Carnes estimates. If that is realized, it will be the smallest Pima acreage since 1995.
“There is so much uncertainty at this time, sponsors of the Pima Production Summit scheduled for May 20 at the Visalia Convention Center have decided to cancel this year's conference,” said Harry Cline, editor of Western Farm Press, co-sponsor of the conference along with the Supima Association of America, University of California Cooperative Extension and the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association.
University of California farm advisors and Extension specialists typically use the mid-May summit to address issues with the current season's crop.
“I am sure we will have a better handle on the crop once the weather warms, and we can address issue specific to Pima during our summer crop meetings,” said Steve Wright, Tulare County UCCE farm advisor.
The much reduced initial planting estimate was largely because of an oversupply and weak prices. However, demand is picking up, according to Jesse Curlee, president of the Supima Association.
Much of the last two seasons' crops went into the loan, but movement out of loan cotton is good right now, said Curlee.
“We know the economy in this country has not turned around and when we talk to our foreign customer, we hear everyone complaining about the economy,” said Curlee. “Nevertheless, we see strong Pima sales to places like India and China.
“There seems to be good demand for Pima to be used in better quality fiber products,” said Curlee.
That is good news, but this year's weather problems and greatly reduced acreage could create an unwanted side effect.
“The one thing we fear is a shortage of Pima in a growing demand market. Prices can get too high hurting our markets. We hope that is not a fall-out from this year's crop problems,” said Curlee.
“Our plans are to resume the annual Pima Production Summit in 2004 and continue from there hosting the event on an alternating year basis,” said Cline.