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Why Is Sea Island Cotton So Expensive?

Why Is Sea Island Cotton So Expensive?
Why Is Sea Island Cotton So Expensive?

The crop is labor-intensive

Why Is Sea Island Cotton So Expensive?

There are few ways to grow sea island cotton. Most farms that grow it are small, which means the plant isn’t easy to manage. It needs careful monitoring during planting and harvesting to make sure everything goes as planned.

The plants also have many seeds, so growing them takes a lot of effort. Farmers usually only sow one seed in each hole in order to maximize their harvest.

This type of farming is hard work, but it can be done by people who know they will earn an abundant living from the crop.

The crop is time-intensive


There are only three sea island cotton crops each year, so this seasonal employment opportunity is one of the biggest factors contributing to the cost of this precious commodity.

Also, because such a small amount is grown, much of it is supplied to specialty manufacturers who treat it like gold — which it is! Gold does not grow very often, and when it does, you’re lucky enough to get a ton of it.

This premium product comes at a price: It costs more than regular corn or soybeans. That’s why we depend on market forces to dictate what foods cost.

Free markets work; government subsidies do not. Recent research shows that fewer farmers are using genetic diversity in their farming practices, which causes prices to go up for consumers.

The crop is difficult to grow

Why is sea island cotton so expensive?

There are only four farms in the US that grow sea island cotton, and they only grow it for fiber.

The crop requires a lot of water and fertilization, which makes it more expensive to produce.

Farmers also have to be ready to harvest at any time, since the plant can take down fast.

Last year’s crop took six months to develop, so farmers had to get them in before September. Once planted, though, they need very little care or attention after the first cutting.

Since wild animals don’t eat the plant, farmers don’t have to invest much in predator control. That gives the crop many advantages over other fibrous crops.

The crop is seasonal

Why is sea island cotton so expensive?

The cost of producing this fabric rises when farmers have to grow it during certain months each year. When you look for sea island cotton, you need to know that there are only specific periods in time where it is available.

The reason why these days are not good times to buy cloths made from sea island cotton. First, the demand for sea island cotton is higher than normal during those months, since more people decide then to purchase towels and napkins.

Second, the weather can be unpredictable at the moment, making it difficult for farmers to produce their crops. A small change in temperature or rainfall pattern can affect production greatly.

Third, because growers depend so much on producers buying their harvest, lowering prices often results in lower revenues. If buyers don’t want your sea island cotton, they won’t sell it to you.

As an example, most coastal restaurants require about one pound (340 g) of sea island cotton for every four to six place settings purchased. At first glance, that may seem like a large amount, but remember that tablecloths, runner sheets, and towel bars can all be made with sea island cotton.

The crop is endangered

Why is sea island cotton so expensive?

There are only four counties that grow sea island cotton, and three of those counties have already been sold for development to other agricultural businesses. Plus, poor growing conditions between now and harvest time will make it even harder to sell this popular fiber.

Those who work in the industry estimate that less than 15 percent of sea island cotton grown this year will be enough quality to be worth anything.

Another issue with growing corn after such a long drought is contamination by weeds. It’s estimated that half of all acres planted with sea island cotton this summer will receive some sort of compensation due to weed resistance.

This is damaging to both farmers and consumers because chemicals were used earlier to combat worms also found in the soil. That goes hand-in-hand with what we saw with alfalfa last fall which was contaminated with fungi.

Consuming food or drink made from either could carry similar health risks as overdosing on certain fungicides. People sensitive to chemical exposure should not eat sea island cotton products unless they have properly washed them.

The crop is susceptible to diseases

Why is sea island cotton so expensive?

Despite its name, sea island cotton isn’t really in the ocean! In fact, it only grows about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from water. However, since the plant spends so much time growing near water, it’s highly vulnerable to certain pathogens and insects that can hurt its growth and production.

That being said, scientists have developed better hybrids for drought tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases. These improved varieties are producing larger yields and selling at higher prices.

However, no matter what variety you choose, make sure it’s well-drained so it doesn’t come into contact with saline water like you might find in an estuary or along the coast.

The crop is difficult to transport

Why is sea island cotton so expensive?

Once ripe, sea island cotton can’t be shipped like other crops. It needs special conditions to dry out after being picked. Then it has to be bundled for transportation.

This makes the crop more expensive to ship, but also means you get better quality fiber. Raw material costs are just one part of your production budget; shipping costs contribute to overall expense.

That explains why sea island cotton is so much more expensive than other fibers. But keep in mind that while raw material cost make a big difference, there are still technical factors that determine price. These include things like drape quality and length uniformity.

Both play an important role in the end product — both how the yarn looks and how sturdy it is. And neither factor relates directly to cost.

The crop is expensive to produce

Why is sea island cotton so expensive?

A major factor in the cost of sea island cotton is the expense of planting the seed. Due to the special environment sea island plants experience, they must be planted individually, instead of in groups like other crops.

Also, because it takes so long for sea island cotton to grow seeds, farmers have found that growing their own seed gives them more control over what happens with the price of the seed.

More than one farmer has reported buying large quantities of sea island cotton only to find that the market had collapsed by the time their fields were ready to plant. When there’s no money to be made from farming, people don’t want its products.

Fortunately, there are alternatives if you need your yard to look out at the ocean or feel like you can breathe fresh air. One of the cheapest ways to add texture and warmth to your grass is by using crabgrass and wildflower turf fertilizer.

The crop is popular

Why is sea island cotton so expensive?

There are only three farms in the United States that grow sea island cotton, and they each have 5,000 acres (20 km) of the crop. That’s why this rare crop is so expensive.

Farmers plant it once every two years, and because of its rarity, it can be difficult to find sellers who buy large quantities.

That’s why you may see such high prices when you shop for sea island cotton fabric. When cloth was released at the end of the 19th century, those were the times we were having fun with colors and novelty shapes.

Sea island cotton is seen as an old-fashioned fabric, but really there are many ways to use it. It comes in black, dark orange, or deep red colorways.

There’s no better time to try your hand at growing this unique vegetable than right now.

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