BEIJING (Reuters) - Cotton mills in two Chinese provinces have suspended output as part of measures to curb smog that has blanketed the north of the country in the past few days, triggering official pollution alerts, according to an industry website.
Mills have stopped buying raw cotton and closed in Hebei province and parts of Shandong, both major growing regions for the fiber, according to a report by Cncotton.com, a government-backed trade website.
The report did not say how many mills were affected, nor give details on the amount of production involved. China is the world's top textile exporter.
The report said cotton processing in parts of Hebei, one of the nation's most polluted provinces, may be affected until the end of December.
The shutdowns come as more than more than 40 cities in China's northeast have issued pollution warnings in the past 48 hours. For many cities, that means shutting factories, closing schools, recommending residents stay indoors and curbing traffic and construction work.
Pollution alerts have become increasingly common in China's northern industrial heartland, especially during winter when energy demand - much of it met by coal - skyrockets.
Prolonged closures at cotton mills would likely hurt demand for the natural fiber amid concerns about global oversupply.
China's most-active cotton futures on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange settled down 0.60 percent on Monday at 15,715 yuan ($2,263.27) per tonne, after earlier hitting their lowest in a month at 15,465 yuan.
Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Josephine Mason; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Joseph Radford