Drought-hit cotton year means 14 gins won’t open

Liz Wells, February 20, 2020

Picking cotton in Central Queensland last week. Photo: Renee Anderson

GINNING of Australia’s 2020 cotton crop is under way, with production forecast by Cotton Australia at 600,000 bales, down 150,000 bales from the industry body’s December estimate.

A crop this small has not been seen since the 1980s.

It comes in under the low of recent years — 601,480 bales in 2008 — and represents just 11 per cent of the record 5.3-million-bale crop picked in 2012.

With three new gins built in southern New South Wales in recent years, Australia now has a total of 38 gins, but trade sources say only 24 will operate this season due to the reduced supply of cotton which has prompted most ginners to concentrate their operations for this year.

In terms of production, the brightest prospects are in Central Queensland, where all three gins — two in Emerald and one in Moura — are opening the 2020 ginning season.

One in Emerald is already running.

Queensland Cotton general manager cotton John Robinson said this year’s cotton volumes in southern Queensland and northern NSW were “absolutely a lot worse” than anything seen so far this century.

“I’m pretty sure it’s the worst ginning season I’ve seen in 26 years,” Mr Robinson said.

Recent rain in Queensland and northern NSW has been welcomed to replenish water supplies and subsoil reserves for the 2020/21 cotton crop, but will come too late to improve yields for much of the current crop.

Nearly all crops have been grown on bore water alone, with little to no rain to replenish on-farm storages, or afford irrigation allocations or dryland production.

“There are some growers who will grow the cotton on after this rain, and other crops will come in quickly because they’ve run out of water.”

While gins in northern NSW can open in March in big years, Cotton Australia northern NSW regional manager Alec Macintosh said most would start up after Easter or maybe even Anzac Day.

This was to ensure enough cotton was in the yard to enable gins to keep operating once they started for the season.

“This year, they’ll gin half of what they did last year, and most of them only ran one shift last year.”

In big years, gins run around the clock on two shifts.

“A lot will be running just at night because of the cheaper electricity.”

Cotton Australia estimates just 2500 hectares of cotton will be picked in the Gwydir Valley this year, well down from areas seen in recent times of 15,000-95,000ha, depending on water availability.

“Cotton Australia is saying 60,000ha for the whole of Australia this year.”

This compares with 292,380ha harvested last year which produced 2.1 million bales.

While the Upper and Lower Namoi valleys planted around 43,000ha of cotton in 2018, Mr Macintosh said only around 14,000-15,000ha have been planted in the current season.

In southern NSW, RivCott chief executive officer Sam Buster said cold weather in the normal planting window meant the crop was planted late, and ginning was therefore likely to start in May instead of April.

“In 2018 we ginned 335,000 bales on a double shift for six months.

“This year, we’ll be doing more like four weeks on one shift.”

The last gin to start up this year will be the Cubbie facility at Dirranbandi, which will be running in June-July to handle cotton grown in northern Australia.



Gin Owner Gin Owner
Emerald LDC Cecil Plains Queensland Cotton
Emerald Queensland Cotton St George Queensland Cotton
Moura Queensland Cotton Goondiwindi RMI Carrington*
Dalby Queensland Cotton
Dalby LDC
Beardmore Queensland Cotton
Dirranbandi Cubbie
Macintyre Namoi*


Gin Owner Gin Owner
Moree Brighann Cotton Darling River Cotton Harris Cotton*
Moree LDC North Bourke Namoi*
Moree North West Ginning Mungindi Namoi*
Midkin AFF Mungindi Queensland Cotton
Wee Waa Auscott Collymongle Harris Cotton
Wee Waa Queensland Cotton Koramba AFF
Merah North Namoi* Ashley Namoi*
Carroll Carroll Cotton Moomin Namoi*
Boggabri Namoi* Wathagar Namoi*
Trangie Auscott Yarraman Namoi*
Trangie Namoi* Warren Auscott
Warren Queensland Cotton
Hay Auscott
Hillston Namoi*
Carrathool RivCott
Whitton Southern Cotton

An asterisk indicates the gin’s status for 2020 could not be confirmed with the owner or operator.

All ginners were contacted by Grain Central about their plans for this year, but not all were available for comment.



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