WASHINGTON (B)--The U.S. cotton harvest in 2000 is estimated at 18.39 million bales, roughly 21% of projected world production, with the total U.S. supply estimated at 22.9 million, according to the National Cotton Council.

The figures, unveiled Feb. 5 during the National Cotton Council's annual meeting, projected that total world production would reach 86.4 million bales in 2000.

Of major world cotton producers, the council expects that only the U.S. will increase output in 2000, with other major producers--especially Pakistan and India--harvesting smaller crops.

U.S. millers are expected to use 10.8 million bales, thanks in large part to the reintroduction of Step 2 subsidy payments, while the U.S. is expected to export 7.8 million. U.S. ending stocks for the 2000-01 crop year are expected at 4.8 million bales, or a stocks-to-use ratio of 26.4%.

The cotton council expects worldwide mill use at 88.0 million bales in the same period, exceeding expected production, so it expects world cotton stocks to fall to 38.6 million bales in 2000, or a stocks-to-use ratio of roughly 43.7%.

This drawdown of world stocks could push world cotton prices up without a complimentary rise in U.S. prices, said National Cotton Council economist Mark Lange, because a lower LDP rate will mean less cotton under marketing loans and more on the open market.

World demand for cotton also is expected to remain flat in 2000, while demand for man-made fibers--especially polyester--will continue to rise, the council said. However, it said an increase in petroleum prices had led to a 15.0% rise in polyester prices during the past year.

Although the report notes that the polyester price situation is currently unclear, expanding production capacity throughout Asia will probably keep synthetic fibers competitive.

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