U.S. cotton product imports recovering from COVID-19 impact

This line chart shows U.S. cotton textile and apparel product imports, from 2017 to 2020.

U.S. cotton product imports—which are mostly clothing products—generally follow a seasonal pattern, with increased imports seen in the months prior to peak consumer buying periods like summer, back-to-school, and Christmas. As calendar year 2020 began, U.S. cotton product imports followed similar monthly levels as during the previous 3 years. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, substantial shifts in the textile and apparel industry produced ripple effects throughout the supply chain from manufacturing to retail sales, which affected product imports significantly during the spring and summer of 2020. U.S. cotton product imports began deviating from their seasonal pattern in March 2020, dropping further in April and May. Since May, however, cotton product import data have been relatively positive, as the recovery of the textile and apparel industry progresses. May 2020 cotton product imports were only about 40 percent of the 2017-19 average for that month. However, by July—the latest available data—imports had climbed to 85 percent of its 2017-19 average. Although the economic recovery is expected to vary by industry, recent cotton product imports—a proxy for the textile and apparel industry—show substantial improvement supportive of the ongoing recovery. This information and the related impacts on global cotton demand are discussed in the Economic Research Service’s Cotton and Wool Outlook report for September 2020.

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