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Improvements on the Panama Canal plus renovations at the Port of Corpus Christi could mean more efficient shipping for Texas cotton.
Raise the bridge
The port has already raised in excessive of $700 million to elevate the expansive Harbor Bridge adjacent to downtown Corpus Christi from 140-plus feet to over 200 feet to accommodate the larger container ships.
"Transportation costs are not getting cheaper. Speaking in rough numbers only, it can cost about $3,000 to deliver a truckload of cotton to a textile mill in China these days where it cost $300 to $400 a truckload 30 years ago, so the cost of transportation plays heavy on how competitive U.S. cotton can be," Fields said.
Already the company ships cotton across the country and to international destinations including Mexico, Turkey, and China, and with large container service coming to Corpus Christi, it puts the company in a good position to provide cost-effective storage and shipping services for Texas producers to destinations across the world.
"Currently, Texas cotton goes to Houston to move it either by rail or water to the West Coast, so once we have full freight and eventually container service out of the Coastal Bend, that would put us in the major flow of providing Texas cotton to the world," Fields added.
Saving a little money on the cost of delivery to cotton buyers will eventually be negotiated back into the price for the grower, "and that's what being a coop is about, working for the best interests of the grower."
Fields says Gulf Compress averages about 675,000 bales of cotton each year, about their storage capacity, and provides services to growers from the Houston area west to Uvalde and up and down the coast as far south as the Rio Grande Valley.
While 2013 is not shaping up to be a usual crop, Fields says irrigated cotton from the Valley looks exceptionally good, but the best yields are coming from the upper coast north of Victoria. He estimates the year is shaping up to be the second worst in the company's history though with only about 200,000 bales expected to be processed through their facilities this year.
"The only thing we need is normal weather and good prices and we will be right back in the thick of it. With seed varieties the way they are now, under the right conditions, we could be looking at 25 percent increase in yields over historic numbers, so every time I start to give up, I just have to remember we could easily be right back in the full blown cotton business in no time," he added.
For the future, Fields says U.S. cotton has a good outlook. With expensive and escalating fuel costs and with more technology advancements, he believes we will eventually see more mill operations returning to the United States.
"Technology advancements alone are amazing and combined with the quality of cotton that U.S. growers can produce, I think we will see a continued demand to produce high grade cotton right here in Texas," he said.
"And as far as Corpus Christi is concerned, the Houston port is extremely congested and we are located on deep water here in the Coastal Bend, so I believe we will see a great deal of growth for the port facility here, for Texas cotton, and for Gulf Compress."