Cotton shortages combined with increasing demand from China have caused prices to shoot up to the equivalent of what the material cost, per pound, during the Civil War, and it's probably going to stay that way for a while. Mark Messura, senior vice president of global marketing supply chain at Cotton, Inc. (that very same Cotton, Inc. that just hired Kate Bosworth to sing in ads), described the situation as "unprecedented" and blames it mostly on China, which used to produce much of the world's cotton and would now rather grow corn:
World production [of cotton] has dropped dramatically, by 40 percent, because farmers are planting more corn and soy crops...China will not produce enough cotton because food is far more important. They need over 30 million crops [cotton bales] a year. When China shops the world for cotton, the market shoots up.
So, the shortage is compounded because that very same growing Chinese population that's hungry for more corn also wants to wear cotton. To combat the problem, China's government is promoting an incentive for farmers to plant cotton for a guaranteed price of $1.36 per pound (the price per pound has been fluctuating in the $1.50-$1.80 range for the past several months, but will hopefully fall closer to a dollar once the shortage shows signs of abating). For now, be prepared to shell out more money for cotton items this season, or else make peace with those scratchy, sweat-inducing polyester blends.