The Courier-Mail

FAR NORTH COT­TONS ON TO NEW CROP

- GLEN NOR­RIS

ABOUT 40 PER CENT OF THE CROP IS GROWN IN QUEENS­LAND Cot­ton Aus­tralia chair­man Si­mon Cor­ish

NORTH Queens­land could be­come a ma­jor cot­ton grow­ing re­gion as plans to open farm­ing ar­eas in the re­gion ac­cel­er­ate.

Cot­ton Aus­tralia chair­man Si­mon Cor­ish said grow­ing cot­ton in the north could boost the na­tional crop by up to 15 per cent and lift ex­ports.

At the mo­ment, most cot­ton is grown in NSW and Queens­land western bor­der re­gions.

Last month beef pro­ducer Stan­broke said it was plan­ning a 15,000ha cot­ton farm on the Flin­ders River, about 90km south of Nor­man­ton, and just west of the $2 bil­lion IFED ir­ri­ga­tion pro­ject.

“The in­dus­try has put a lot of re­search and de­vel­op­ment into grow­ing cot­ton in north Queens­land,” Mr Cor­ish said.

“The main is­sue about grow­ing cot­ton in the re­gion has been a lack of in­fra­struc­ture, such as ports and gins.”

But with plans to open more acreage through ir­ri­ga­tion schemes in the north, a sig­nif­i­cant boost to the in­dus­try is on the cards. Cot­ton has pre­vi­ously been tri­alled in the re­gion but failed be­cause the clos­est gin to process the crop is in Emer­ald, more than 900km away.

“About 40 per cent of the crop is grown in Queens­land and the rest in NSW,” Mr Cor­ish said.

“If cot­ton is grown in the north in the fu­ture, this fig­ure will even out.”

State De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter An­thony Lyn­ham said Stan­broke was seek­ing ap­proval to ex­tract a fur­ther 122,000 me­gal­itres a year from the lower Flin­ders River to ir­ri­gate the cot­ton.

Mr Cor­ish, a Goondi­windi farmer elected to the top job at the peak body, said this year’s crop had been hit by drought in grow­ing ar­eas. The na­tional crop was ex­pected to come in around 1.6 mil­lion bales, com­pared to 3.9 mil­lion bales last year.

But he said the fu­ture looked good for the $2.5 bil­lion in­dus­try de­spite the poor weather con­di­tions and com­pe­ti­tion com­ing from man­made fi­bres.

Although they only made up a small part of the world mar­ket for cot­ton, Aus­tralian farm­ers were paid a pre­mium for their crop be­cause of its low con­tam­i­nants.

As big par­tic­i­pants in the Bet­ter Cot­ton Ini­tia­tive, a global sus­tain­abil­ity pro­gram fo­cused at farm­level im­prove­ments, their crop was in­creas­ingly sought by over­seas cus­tomers.

Mr Cor­ish said global re­tail­ers, such as Tar­get and Nike, were in­creas­ingly re­quir­ing cot­ton to be grown in a sus­tain­able way and this trend would ben­e­fit the Aus­tralian in­dus­try.

The amount of in­sec­ti­cides used on Aus­tralian farms has dropped 90 per cent over the past decade while there had been a 40 per cent in­crease in wa­ter ef­fi­ciency.

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