Second-biggest Australian cotton crop expected

Grain Central February 1, 2022

A squaring cotton crop planted at Emerald in Central Queensland on December 12. Photo: Renée Anderson

AFTER years of drought, Cotton Australia is forecasting the industry’s second-largest crop on record due to favourable conditions across most of Australia’s cotton-growing regions.

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay said substantial rain late last year and early this year has growers optimistic, and if good conditions continue, a crop of around 5.2 million bales (Mb) is possible.

This will put it behind only the 5.3Mb crop grown in 2011-12.

The drought-impacted 2019-20 yield was less than 590,000 bales, the smallest crop in recent history, and was followed last year with a crop of 2.8Mb.

Mr Kay said some growing regions have not had enough rain and others have suffered severe flooding, but the majority have benefitted from warmer temperatures, good rain and manageable pest issues.

“It goes to show how diverse our cotton-growing regions are, with some farmers separated by thousands of kilometres,” Mr Kay said.

“What is clear is that most of Australia’s 1500 growers are busy preparing for a good year and hoping they can find staff to help them through to harvest.”

While the yield per hectare can also vary significantly, particularly with dryland cotton, some are forecasting 12-14 bales a hectare under irrigation.

Good results are also expected from dryland crops.

“We are seeing cotton futures trading at more than A$700 a bale, and with strong global demand for quality cotton combined with low levels for sale in the US and China, the upward pressure on price is expected to continue.”

Mr Kay said the current level of the cotton market should enable Australia to double the value of its cotton exports from around $2 billion last year to $4 billion this year.

With the industry focused on developing new markets and with cotton-growing emerging in North Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia, export value is expected to continue to grow.

“The vast majority of our farmers, around 90 per cent, are family growers and when they have a good year they invest in their farms and spend money in their local community and that’s a massive boost for rural and regional Australia.”

Australian cotton has a reputation for being among the best quality sustainable cotton grown anywhere in the world, and the 2021 crop sold out despite the soft ban on our cotton from China.

“Many of our farmers have already secured contracts for their 2022 cotton on the futures market, and with new market-development work funded by the Federal Department of Agriculture under the ATMAC program, we expect to sell every bale we produce again this season.”

Picking of the bulk of Australia’s cotton crops is expected to start in April, later than normal due largely to rain which delayed planting in some areas.

Source: Cotton Australia

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