Cotton Prices at Highest Level Since 1870

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The so-called "fabric of our lives" may get more expensive next year.

The price of cotton has hit its highest level since 1870 and that higher price could find its way into everything from t-shirts to sweaters and beyond.

"Right now cotton is in unchartered territory," said Matthew Hall, a spokesperson for Hanesbrands Inc., which includes underwear and athletic apparel brands like Hanes, Champion and Wonderbra.

Cotton has gone up in price, because of heavy rains and flooding in China and Pakistan, which are two of the largest cotton producers in the world. However, it will take months for the higher prices to reach consumers.

"For our clothes sold in the third quarter of next year, cotton costs are about $0.88 a pound," said Hall, who estimated that an annualized 4 percent price increase will take effect in February. "What we're paying for cotton is not necessarily what is going on in the market right now."

Some producers hope enough new cotton will be planted next year to stop prices from soaring even higher.

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