By and  on April 26, 2007

BEIJING — Cotton Inc. celebrated its 10th year of working in China this week, highlighting the sweeping changes that have occurred in the country since then and its future importance as one of the world's largest consumer markets.

In the past decade, China has grown into the world's largest raw cotton buyer, purchasing 40 percent of U.S. cotton production, and promising even greater consumer and manufacturing demand in years to come. As global trade has grown and the Chinese economy has taken off, cotton exports from the U.S. to China also have soared. During the decade that Cotton Inc. has done business with China, record demand for raw goods and consumer textile products have exceeded expectations.

"It would have been hard to imagine the tremendous changes that have taken place over the past 10 years," J. Berrye Worsham, president and chief executive officer of Cotton Inc., said during a gathering in the Chinese capital on Tuesday to celebrate the research and marketing firm's decade in China.

Since entering the Chinese market in 1997, the U.S. cotton industry has been on an often wild ride. The supply of domestic cotton fell to 23.7 million bales in 2004 and increased to 29.4 million bales last year. Despite the fluctuations, which can be caused by variables such as weather or farmers opting to plant other crops, demand has continued to grow. Company leaders said U.S. cotton has established a strong reputation among clothing manufacturers and buyers, and the outlook is positive.

China's entry into the World Trade Organization six years ago marked a turning point in the U.S. cotton industry's outlook here. When trade barriers began to fall as China opened to global trade, the demand for raw product from the U.S. surged. The demise of global textile quotas spurred more production, and demand for raw cotton, in Chinese mills and factories.

China imported 50 million bales of cotton last year, a 150 percent increase compared with 10 years ago. Meanwhile, cotton fabric production skyrocketed 180 percent over that period and cotton yarn production more than tripled, according to Cotton Inc.

"China has become a very import market," said Dean Turner, senior vice president for global supply chain at Cotton Inc.

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