THE development of a moister weather pattern in recent weeks has helped this season’s cotton plantings get away to a good start throughout the Queensland and New South Wales growing areas.
Cotton Australia general manager, Michael Murray, said the improved conditions had given more confidence to the estimate that around 390,000 hectares would be grown this season, potentially producing a four-million-bale crop.
Mr Murray said planting was well underway in most areas from Central Queensland to the NSW/Victoria border region.
“Up in Emerald they have been planting since August 1 and some of their crops are well and truly advanced,” he said.
“Planting is well and truly underway in southern NSW. Some have finished there.
“In other regions it is just getting underway. On the Darling Downs not a lot has gone in yet. They tend to wait until next week.”
Mr Murray said water availability varied from valley to valley, but generally speaking there was enough to sustain a similar crop to last season.
“Last season we had a lot of spring rain and inflows, then Cyclone Debbie allowed for some replenishment,” he said.
“It is a mixed bag. The southern area is pretty good, although their allocations for this year haven’t been that great. They held a fair bit of carryover.
“The Macquarie Valley will be a full plant. The Namoi and Gwydir may be slightly less or slightly more than last season. Goondiwindi is in a better position. Dirranbandi and St George are in a worse position.”
Mr Murray said the price for cotton was still relatively good.
“Today it is around $470/$480/bale. A reasonable percentage of the crop has been sold at above $500/bale. It is not unusual for prices to be down a little at this time of year,” he said.
Mr Murray said it would be interesting to see what happened with dryland cotton planting in the next week or two with the change in the weather lifting soil moisture profiles.
“It was looking to be an extremely small dryland crop two weeks ago when we were talking about 10,000 hectares, but particularly if there is some good rain in the dryland areas this week that could improve significantly,” he said.
Global cotton market
Meanwhile, the latest United States Department of Agriculture report says global cotton production, consumption and trade for 2017/18 are all slightly higher, while ending stocks are slightly lower.
A 643,000-bale-decline in US production is largely offset by production increases in Argentina, Brazil, and Greece.
US exports are cut 400,000 bales, more than offset by higher exports from India, Brazil, and Australia. Higher imports and use in Vietnam help boost global trade slightly.
Outside of China, global cotton stocks in 2017/18 are expected to rise by nearly 12 million bales, to a record 53 million.
Despite a relatively strong forecast increase in global cotton use (3.8pc), a 15pc expansion in production will outpace demand, increasing global stocks.
The USDA report said China’s cotton import policy remained a major wildcard.
Despite market rumours of possible increased import access, there has been no official indication of any change in the import policy. Therefore, 2017/18 imports are forecast at a similar level to last season.