Experts say state's cotton quality needs improvement - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Experts say state's cotton quality needs improvement

March 16, 2004

Tifton- Cotton is one crop that has almost always been synonymous with Georgia.

"We produce a million and a half acres, two million bales every year. We're the third largest cotton producer in the country, so the quality of that crop is very important to us," says UGA Agricultural Economist Don Shurley.

But for the past 8 years growers and experts say the state's cotton quality has gone downhill, putting a dent in the price farmers can charge for their product.

"We lost about 10 million dollars last year. The year before, in 2002, we lost over $40 million, which is roughly about 10 percent of the value of the crops statewide," calculates Shurley.

That's a big loss for everyday growers like Jimmy Webb.

"Two out of every three bales produced in the United States will be exported. So, we're competing in a worldwide market and we need to get our quality to that level and maintain it," explains Webb.

He is afraid if farmers don't increase quality, big cotton importers like China will start shopping elsewhere.

Growers, ginners, textile mills, and merchants from all over the state met with UGA Agricultural experts to discuss what's effecting the cotton quality and what can be done to fix it.

"It can't be all weather-related because last year we had great weather and really the yields were great, a fantastic crop, but yet we still had $10 million worth of deducts," Shurley admits.

That's why experts say changes in production must be made in order for Georgia growers to continue to compete and keep money in their pockets.

During the symposium growers also heard from UGA scientists who are researching cotton quality and new ways of producing a superior quality staple.

Posted at 5:00 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com