KANSAS CITY — In the past several weeks, cottonseed oil supplies have been scarce to unavailable, and the price of the oil, most important to manufacturers of potato chips and other snack chips, has soared to levels not seen since 2008, which was a year for record prices for cottonseed oil and for several other edible oils. In fact, the price quoted for cottonseed oil in Milling & Baking News (69½c a lb on March 14) must be considered nominal with some market participants indicating prices might be quoted much higher still. The source of the nosebleed price levels lay in the shortfall in cottonseed supply in the current marketing year, which has severely tightened cottonseed oil production and availability. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its March Oil Crops report estimated the cottonseed oil supply for the crop year 2013-14 that began on Oct. 1, 2013, at 730 million lbs, down 190 million lbs, or 21%, from 920 million lbs in 2012-13. It was the smallest cottonseed oil supply in U.S.D.A. records extending back to 1980-81.

The cottonseed crop itself in 2013 was estimated at 4,406,000 tons, down 1,260,000 tons, or 21%, from 6,086,000 tons in 2012.