Cheaper clothes are coming on bumper crop of cotton


The cost of clothing is poised to get cheaper as farmers who overplanted cotton when the commodity was commanding high prices are about to bring a bumper crop to market.

There were so many alarms sounded during the massive run-up in the cost of cotton over the last 12 months. Bloomberg reported that cotton had been trading at the highest price ever last month (inflation adjusted) since just after the Civil War. (Back in 1865, cotton was hard to get because it was used so much in the war effort and much of the farmland in the South that grew the crop was destroyed. As a result, prices went through the roof.)

But now there’s a predicted decline in the value of the crop coming soon. And the good news all along is that even though there was some reflection of cotton’s high in clothing prices, the manufacturers and retailers weren’t really able to push through meaningful price increases.

Most of us have enough clothes in our closets and are automatically “price elastic,” as economists would say. That means we subconsciously go on a buyer’s strike simply because the price of clothes were trending up and we don’t need additional threads in our life.  It’s a behavior modification we just did without even thinking about it.

Now the good news to come for manufacturers and consumers (but not for cotton growers!) is that farmers overplanted during the run-up in price. The crop that’s about to come to harvest represents an all-time high amount of production.

So you should expect to see clothing prices drop in the mid to late summer. In fact, the price of cotton on the futures market has already come down ahead of the bumper crop coming to market.

This means you’ll get some breathing room when you go to buy clothes in a few months. Our informal buyer’s strike, coupled with the new bounty in production, means that this part of the inflation scare has gone by the wayside.

On the oil front, however, there’s something else going on entirely. We are actually awash in the stuff, there is no shortage of oil whatsoever. The big run-up in the price of oil (and gasoline, as a result) is all based on “what if” fears. Capitalists are afraid to put their money at risk as they worry about what’s going on across the Arab world. Once there’s some certainty, the price of oil and gas will drop considerably, because there is no supply problem. And that is ultimately good news.

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