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Greece Cuts Cotton Crop as Europe’s Top Grower Turns to Corn

April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Greece’s cotton harvest, Europe’s biggest, is set to slump 25 percent this year as farmers plant less of the fiber in favor of more profitable durum wheat and corn, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture unit.

The crop may slide to 200,000 metric tons in the 2013-14 season starting in August from 265,000 tons in the current period, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service wrote in an online report. The 2012-13 figure is below the Washington-based USDA’s official 300,000-ton estimate, the report showed.

Cotton accounts for more than 8 percent of Greece’s agricultural output, with more than 75,000 farmers growing the fiber, according to the FAS. Turkey purchased about 35 percent of the harvest in 2011-12, the report showed.

“Cotton area and production are forecast to decline,” the USDA unit wrote. Farmers are shifting acres to grains “because of cheaper production costs and the strong rebound in durum wheat and corn farm-gate prices,” it said.

Greece’s cotton area is predicted to slump to 220,000 hectares (543,620 acres) from 285,000 hectares in 2012, according to the FAS. The nation’s crop is planted from March 1 to April 15 and harvested in October and November, it said.

Less Fertilizer

The estimate for 2012-13 production was cut on lower-than-expected yields caused by adverse weather and reduced fertilizer usage, the USDA unit wrote.

The Greek cotton industry has been hurt by the country’s financial crisis, with many ginners and cooperatives unable to retain stocks to secure a higher price because of a lack of bank assistance, according to the FAS. The nation has about 30 ginning companies, it said.

Greece’s textile industry is faced with falling domestic demand and exports, while banks have “pulled the plug” on all sources of funding, the FAS wrote. Interest on loans can exceed 10 percent, the USDA unit said, citing the Association of Hellenic Textile Industries.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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