Cotton price increase good news for Valley farmers

FRESNO, Calif.

The cotton growing in this West Fresno county field will eventually be made into shirts, bed sheets, and other common products. For farmers like Paul Betancourt, selling cotton at any price over one dollar a pound is rare. This year he's already sold his crop for $1.50 per pound.

Betancourt: "High prices help us. That's a definite. I mean, I got bills, I got plenty of bills to pay."

Global demand has driven the price up. China can't produce enough cotton to meet the country's needs. And in Pakistan, recent floods have devastated its fiber industry.

"I would bet you it won't even go to a warehouse in Fresno. The trucks will go straight to Oakland, load on ships and by Thanksgiving they'll be on the high seas," said Betancourt.

Betancourt will start harvesting in one week. That's later than usual because the Valley's wet Spring season delayed planting. Betancourt worried some of his crop could be damaged if rain arrives too soon. "We're on the early side. There are a lot of guys that won't be picking for a couple weeks yet. So there's a lot of uncertainty going on right now," he said.

Consumers should not worry though. The price increase may not even have an affect at the retail level.

"I don't think it's going to immediately affect either the quantity of product available or the prices too much," said Betancourt.

The high price could eventually hurt local farmers. If the cost of cotton continues to rise manufactures could choose a cheaper fiber like polyester and nylon to replace it.

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