THE AUSTRALIAN cotton industry is moving closer towards completion of the 2018 harvest, with industry figures pleased with ‘good solid yields’.
Chief executive of Cotton Australia Adam Kay said cotton producers were pleased with gross margins this year.
“There have been relatively good yields in all the major cotton producing valleys and prices are strong, getting up to near $590 a bale, so that means cotton is proving a good earner for growers.”
He said the majority of the cotton had been forward sold, but excess above baseline yield estimates would be sold in the spot market at current prices.
“There is a little bit of surplus and that means growers are getting some exposure to the prices currently on offer.”
Mr Kay said in spite of cotton’s consistent march south, with more and more hectares being planted in the Murrumbidgee and Murray Vallleys, this year did not quite break previous records.
“At this stage we don’t think it will get to that 5.3 million bale mark (set in 2011-12), it looks more like a 4.5m bale year.”
He said a reduced area of dryland cotton, combined with only average yields in some areas were the major factors in keeping the year below record production.
It may not have a record year nationally, but certain regions enjoyed very strong seasons.
Macquarie Valley cotton grower Tom Quigley said the area was finalising what had been an excellent harvest.
“Yields have been very good, with many averaging between 14-16 bales to the hectare,” he said.
“I think everyone throughout the Macquarie Valley is pleased, and the good pricing on offer is an added bonus, it is very nice when you get that rare combination of good yields and good prices.”
He said the cash price was good and with strong yields there was excess cotton to market at the higher value.
“It is a good offer for unpriced cotton, I think on average people will have pre-committed around 10 bales a hectare and will be looking to sell the production above this figure.”
In terms of progress, he said the area around Nevertire and Trangie will be wrapped up by the end of the week, while at Narromine the harvest will be in full swing next week.
He said a hot, but not scalding, summer had meant the yields had been better than expected.
“It is always a bit unknown heading into harvest, it looked good, but you’re always apprehensive until you get into it.”
Next year, he said farmers with carryover water would look to plant cotton, but he said continued dry conditions mean irrigation allocations would likely be down.
Mr Quigley, who farms with his brothers and parents, said his family would be looking to increase cotton plantings next season, but added water constraints may hold them back.
“We’d love to plant more cotton given where the prices are, but it is going to be a matter of seeing what water availability is like.”
However in the Border Rivers region on the NSW / Queensland border, growers were slightly disillusioned with the year.
Brendan Griffiths, Griffiths Agriculture, Goondiwindi, said yields were down on what had been expected.
“Generally people were a little disappointed but only on expectation, it really has been a solid enough season,” Mr Griffiths said.
“There was a mild summer compared to last year, we generally had good water availability but yields probably sat around the 11 bales to the hectare.”
Mr Griffiths said no one was sure what had caused the yield deficit but he thought it could be a result of cotton heavy rotations in recent years.
“Cotton is by far the best performing irrigation crop so when people have got the water it can become a little like a monoculture in this area.
“There is no real data on it but I think when you have a few years of cotton in a row the yield seem to taper a bit, whether it is a lack of fertility or whatever it is.”
“After the forced fallow of a few years back when there wasn’t the water we saw really good yields the year after which set the bar high.
“All in all, given the prices, people should be fairly pleased with the result.”