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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