A group of 12 textile manufacturers from the world’s largest cotton consuming country will see one of their key raw material sources firsthand during a visit to the U.S. Cotton Belt on Sept. 20-30.

The COTTON USA Special Trade Mission, sponsored by Cotton Council International (CCI), is focusing on China, which will consume an estimated 53.0 million bales in 2008-2009. China also is the world’s largest importer of cotton, with 12 million bales estimated for this coming year.

CCI President Robert Weil, II, said the U.S. exported approximately 4.4 million bales to China in 2007-2008, and current 2008-2009 sales to that country have reached about 1.4 million bales. The Chinese textile mills represented on the tour consume more than 3.2 million bales, with U.S. imports of about 1.3 million bales — almost one-third of U.S. cotton sales to China last year.

“It is impossible to overstate how important a customer China is for U.S. cotton,” Weil said. “This type of visit will enable these Chinese manufacturers to grow even more comfortable with our fiber and with our industry as a reliable supplier.”

The delegation’s tour begins on Sept. 22 in New York in a seminar with ICE Futures and then in Raleigh, NC, for a meeting with AMCOT, Southern Cotton Growers Association and Cotton Incorporated, whose headquarters they will tour on the 23rd. On the 24th in Memphis, Tenn., they will meet with the American Cotton Shippers Association, AMCOT and the American Cotton Producers and tour the USDA Classing Office.

On the 25th, they will meet with the National Cotton Council before visiting a cotton farm and a gin in eastern Arkansas and traveling to Lubbock, Texas, where they will have meetings with the Lubbock Cotton Exchange, Texas Cotton Association, AMCOT and Plains Cotton Growers Association. The next day they will meet again with the Exchange, AMCOT and Texas Cotton Association along with the Texas Cotton Producers, Inc., before visiting the Texas Agrilife Research and Extension Center and a nearby cotton farm. Their tour concludes on September 29th in Fresno, Calif., with a visit to the American Cotton Shippers Association’s Merchandising Office and a meeting with the Western Cotton Shippers Association, AMCOT, San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton Growers Association and Supima.