NEW YORK, (Reuters) — Uncertainty over a policy shift to crop subsidies in China, the world's top producer and consumer of cotton, could spark a burst of demand for imported cotton between September and December, an industry veteran said on Friday.
There is "complete confusion" over new farmer subsidies in China, Ed Jernigan, president and chief executive officer of Jernigan Global Commodities, said during the Ag Market network's annual radio program from New York.
Jernigan, who advises textile companies on supply chain management, said spinners will need fresh domestic supplies or imports beginning in September due to low inventories and a lack of high-quality cotton in Beijing's huge state reserves.
That "raises the surprise possibility of imports to meet demand if quotas are available," Jernigan said.
China's government is swapping the stockpiling policy it launched in 2011 for a crop subsidy program this year, but it has not publicly disclosed all the details. The move has raised concerns over how and when fresh domestic supplies will be available to the country's mills.
A sudden burst of Chinese demand could provide a glimmer of hope for U.S. farmers facing a bearish outlook as they grow a bumper crop and as China's stockpiling policy changes threaten to cut demand in the world's biggest textile market.
Jernigan, however, said he was "bearish" on the market and expected U.S. 2014/15 supplies to hit the high end of his forecast range of 16-17.5 million bales due to good growing conditions.
New York cotton futures have tumbled to June 2012 lows this week amid a speculator sell-off due to the increasingly bearish supply-demand prospects.
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