Record cotton prices and cotton-hungry world textile mills entwined in a “phenomenal“ buying frenzy resulted in the sale of about 1 million bales of U.S. cotton in less than a week.

Ernie Schroeder Jr., CEO of Jess Smith and Sons, Bakersfield, Calif., said the buying and selling fury took place when about 500 people gathered in Southern California in early November at the biennial Sourcing USA Summit.

Sponsored by Cotton Council International, Cotton Incorporated and USDA Foreign Ag Service (FAS), Schroeder said he has never seen the marketing activity at the event like this year.

“You could not even sit down with one buyer without another competing for your attention. If you put out an offer to sell cotton, you had better have the cotton,” he said.

Schroeder’s company, the largest family-owned cotton merchandising company in the U.S, was one of about 20 export sponsors at this year’s summit where it was obvious that world cotton consumption has exceeded the available cotton supply.

Schroeder and the staff at Jess Smith and Sons got a pre-summit preview of what was to come when they hosted about 30 of the mill buyers for a tour of the San Joaquin Valley a week before the Southern California gathering.

“Everyone on the tour was really in good spirits,” he said, despite the current record cotton prices of more than $1 per pound for upland and well over $2 for American Pima.

“Yarn prices are good right now, and a lot of buyers of U.S. cotton are doing well. They were buying cotton like it was 70-cents per pound. There is simply not enough production and supply to meet current cotton consumption. That is a good problem to have for U.S. cotton.”

The majority of this year’s U.S. crop is sold. “Right now everyone has a little bit of cotton left, but because the harvest is still going, you do not know exactly what is left and you do not want to sell what you may not get,” he said.

Schroeder believes cotton buyers find it difficult to rectify the fact that USDA says there are statistically many unsold bales left, yet there is not much U.S. cotton for sale.

“Exporters like us have verbal commitments from our buyers for the cotton that has statistically not been sold. It is not uncommon for a mill buyer to ask you to reserve 500 bales of cotton to be sold at a price agreed upon later,” said the company CEO.