QUEENSLAND Cotton will not be opening its Warren gin for the upcoming 2023 season, despite the Macquarie Valley preparing to begin picking a sizable crop later this month.
Grain Central understands growers were informed of this decision last week.
A spokesperson from Queensland Cotton’s parent company, Olam Agri, confirmed the facility would remain closed this season.
“Queensland Cotton is looking at upgrading the Warren gin to meet environmental and productivity standards, and it will be unavailable for the coming season,” the spokesperson said.
“No impact on the business is expected and we will continue to serve customers via arrangements with other gins in the region.”
The Warren gin is adjacent to the township’s showgrounds and racecourse and within 2km of the town centre.
Although the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority has never issued a penalty notice to the gin, it has received complaints related to dust emissions from members of the public.
Cyclones filter air coming out of gins, and the EPA in May 2018 documented its concerns with QC’s Warren facilty’s “cyclones intermittently emitting excessive dust and debris”, as well as issues with fuel and chemical storage.
A NSW EPA spokesperson confirmed it has received reports alleging dust emissions from QC’s Warren gin.
“EPA investigations are ongoing and we will keep the community updated once these have been finalised,” the EPA spokesperson said.
“There have been no prior penalty infringement notices issued to Queensland Cotton and the EPA has not requested the gin facility to close.”
Potential impact on growers
Local growers have called the announcement “very unusual”, with the district estimated to have planted about 28,000ha of cotton this season.
Cotton Australia Macquarie Valley regional manager Craig Chandler said it should be a smooth process for growers to organise for their cotton to be processed at one of the region’s other gins.
“There is Auscott and Namoi gins in the area so there are options to pick up the slack,” Mr Chandler said.
He said Macquarie Valley plantings were down about one third due to ongoing rain and flooding during the planting window, and the region was expected to plant about 35,000ha.
Although down on previous years, this crop size could easily sustain operations of the Queensland Cotton site as well as Auscott’s Warren gin and the two Trangie facilities around 50km away and owned by Auscott and Namoi.
During low production years, Queensland Cotton has opted to keep the Warren gin open while closing other sites, such as during the 2019-20 drought which saw the Australian crop dive to 600,000 bales.
There is also expected to be cotton yet to be ginned from last season, which will add to the Macquarie Valley’s overall volume.
“If you look at some of the gin yards, it’s like it is mid-May; some of them have rows and rows of cotton in the modules because the farmers couldn’t get them off the farm or they continued to pick in spring,” Cotton Grower Services – Warren, Alex Brooker said.
Mr Chandler said the region could see another “long, drawn-out season” which could prevent bottlenecking at the gins.
He said this was due to growers having “a number of avenues for planting”.
“There was some planted early in October and November and others that didn’t get planted until early December.
“It was a bit disjointed, but the ginning will get done.”
Positive finish predicted
Mr Brooker said thanks to warm temperatures and clear skies, the cotton crop “is finishing nicely”.
“It has benefited well from the recent clear skies and warm days.
“The temperatures have dropped down in the last few days, but it is still pretty sunny.”
He said growers in the area are now more positive about the crop’s prospects compared to the outlook during planting.
“It was doom and gloom there for a little while.
“In Warren and around Narromine not so many farmers did their full plant; some were quite scaled back due to flooding in the fields in September and October.”
Mr Brooker said he expected picking to commence after Anzac Day.
The Warren gin was officially commissioned in 1988.
Queensland Cotton purchased the facility, along with the Collymongle and Mungindi gins, from the Twynam Agricultural Group in 2006.
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