Cotton gins get busy

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Special to the Daily News

Cotton season is well under way in eastern North Carolina, and that means area cotton gins are busy.
Many area farmers bring their cotton crops to two gins in the region, one in Terra Ceia and one in Fairfield. They are charged a price for their cotton to be processed at the gins. Both gins produce an average of 60,000 bales to 80,000 bales during a three-month harvesting season.
Todd Waters is the general manager for the Terra Ceia and Fairfield cotton gins. He is in his fifth season with the cotton gins. Coastal Carolina Cotton Gins was established in 1996.
Waters said the cotton industry has seen a lot of changes.
“Twenty years, ago they used to have these old wagons that they would dump the cotton in. Then, they would bring the cotton to the gin. They would have a pipe and suck it out of the wagon. But then the revolution was from the wagon to the module builder. Now, things are moving away from them as well.”
Cotton bales vary in color and strength. They are given tracking numbers that identify the farm where the cotton was harvested and who grew the cotton. This information is stored on a computer and monitored by cotton-gin employees as the cotton is processed.
Cotton seed is exported to countries like Japan, Korea and Saudi Arabia. Those countries use cotton-seed oil in many of their food products.
Waters elaborated on specific changes in the cotton industry in the United States.
“Cotton acres have really been hurt by traditional commodities which mark up the values in them. In the United States, they are projecting about 18-and-half-million bale production. Only about three million bales will be consumed in the United States in domestic mills. The other 15 and half will go to foreign countries to be spun. Seventy-five percent of the cotton produced in the United States is exported,” he said.
The North Carolina Cotton Producers Association’s held its 21st Cotton Field Day and Exhibition at Flatland Farms near Pantego last week. Cotton producers from across North Carolina and surrounding states attended the event.
Waters said the event provides an overall look at the cotton industry to those who are part of it.