Calcot vice president of marketing Jarral Neeper says textile mill Extra Long Staple cotton buyers are going to be surprised when growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, which produces 85 percent of the U.S. Pima crop, do not plant "wall to wall" Pima as they expect in response to very strong Pima prices right now.

Neeper told participants in the Bayer CropScience "Getting More in 2004" conference that the 800,000-bale carryover in world stocks is the lowest in modern Pima history. It has sent current crop Pima prices soaring along with forecasts of huge acreage increases.

Neeper expects world production this season to reach 3.5 million bales with world consumption of 3.1 million bales to 3.2 million bales.

The veteran economist expects California to plant only 200,000 to 220,000 acres this season, one of the smallest numbers being floated about by experts. This is a significant increase from last year’s 135,000 acres but certainly not as much as has been planted in past years.

"Once buyers find California is not planting wall to wall, I think you will see much better (new crop) Pima prices," said Neeper. He predicted Pima prices "will spend a lot of time in the 95 cents to $1 range to growers" and could go higher if there are production problems somewhere in the major Pima producing areas of the world.

e-mail:hcline@primediabusiness.com