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US Cotton Supplies Suffer a Further Blow in the Wake of Hurricane Idalia

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US cotton supplies took another hit after Hurricane Idalia tore through southern Georgia last week, soaking cotton fields and flattening plants. 

This week’s good-to-excellent cotton crop conditions for Georgia, the No. 2 cotton-growing state accounting for 15% of total US production, slumped 7 percentage points to 58%, the second-lowest ranking for this time of year in the past five years. 

Hurricane Idalia drove the state’s already wet cotton growing season to record levels of rainfall — for August, precipitation was 55% above the 10-year average — according to Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, weighted for cotton-planted areas in Georgia. Although Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall in Florida, missed that state’s main citrus growing areas, the storm’s path took it through Georgia’s cotton country, as Gro wrote about here

Drenching rain left Georgia farmers with sodden fields. In Coffee County, one of Georgia’s top cotton producing regions, soil moisture levels more than doubled following Hurricane Idalia, as seen in this Gro display

Heavy precipitation on opened cotton bolls damages plant fibers and contributes to lint loss. While Georgia could have suffered more severe losses from the hurricane if the crop were more advanced, any decline in production will weigh on US supplies as cotton production suffers in drought-hit Texas, the the No. 1 cotton producer.

For the Texas cotton crop, good-to-excellent crop conditions have slumped by 23 percentage points since early July to 11%, the lowest rating ever recorded, as Gro wrote about here. As a result, US cotton ending stocks are forecasted to fall this year to the lowest level in nearly a decade. The US is the world’s third-largest cotton producer and its top exporter.

Georgia’s cotton crop troubles are likely to boost farmers’ RMA insurance claims, which often increase after heavy rain events, as shown in this Gro display depicting the history of various cotton indemnities. In 2018, for example, excessive precipitation from Hurricane Michael led to a sharp increase in indemnified claims for cotton acres lost in October through December. In 2020, Hurricane Delta destroyed Georgia’s cotton crop as the majority of bolls were open when the storm hit.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 to November 30. While El Niño years, such as this one, typically bring fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic during the peak of the season, NOAA forecasters with the US Climate Prediction Center forecast a 60% chance of an above-normal hurricane season this year due to factors including abnormally high ocean temperatures.

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