China, the world's largest buyer of cotton, plans to increase cotton imports by 2.5% to a record 4.1m metric tons as domestic mill demand rises faster than production, the US Foreign Agriculture Service informs.

Chinese mills are estimated to use 7.9% more cotton by increasing imports mainly from the US, according to a report from US embassy staff in Beijing.

In addition, farmers will increase plantings, aiming for a 6.1% rise in output to 6.05 tons.

Jim Butterworth and Wu Xinping, US Department of Agriculture analysts in Beijing, said in the report that increased exports and domestic demand for textile and apparel products are fuelling high imports.

Chinese cotton imports for first two months of 2006 reportedly went up to 622,652 metric tons, from 183,675 tons during same period last year.

Over the next ten years, China will continue to exert considerable influence on world cotton textile production, cotton production and trade, with the US losing on the latter and Brazil gaining, according to a forecast by the Cotton Economics Research Institute (CERI) at Texas Tech University.

In the long run, increases in cotton production to meet rising mill use are expected to come primarily from increased yields rather than increased acreage. Worldwide yields are projected to increase by 10.6% by 2015

World cotton trade is expected to increase by about 9m bales by 2015.

By Sapna Arora