Chinese dignitaries will sign contracts with seven U.S. cotton suppliers today, bringing the country’s purchase of U.S. cotton for the year ending July 1 to an estimated 7.5 million bales, or $2.1 billion, said William May, senior vice president for foreign and domestic operations for the American Cotton Shippers Association. Any sale to China is important because it is the largest cotton consumer in the world,” May said in an interview. “It is the largest maker of textiles in the world.” Chinese officials were scheduled to sign agreements at a 5:15 p.m. ceremony today in Memphis with seven suppliers — Allenberg Cotton com., Cargill Cotton, Dunavant Enterprises, Weil Brothers, Paul Reinhart, Jess Smith and Calcot. All are closely held companies U.S. cotton exports will reach a record this marketing year, to 16.8 million bales, up from 16.4 million last year as China imports more cotton. U.S. exports for the new marketing year starting Aug. 1 are forecast to be 17 million bales, the USDA said in February. U.S. production of cotton this year was forecast at 21 million bales, down from last year’s record 23.7 million Cotton prices in New York, up 1.3 percent in the past year, are down 36 percent from a seven-year high in October 2003. Cotton for May delivery rose 0.33 cent to 53.97 cents a pound yesterday on the New York Board of Trade. Each bale weighs about 500 pounds. Cotton consumption in the U.S., which reached a 20-year low in December, is expected to drop this year as exports surge, led by growth in demand from China, India and Pakistan. Domestic demand has been hurt as textile makers shift production to other countries China controls more than a quarter of the world’s $400 billion market for textiles and apparel, according to the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. Chinese exports surged last year after the expiration of a global regime that limited trade in clothing and fabric. “It allowed the textile makers to buy the cotton on their own rather than through the government,” May said.”Source: bloomberg.com.