Cotton optimism high despite 'hole' in state's North West

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay and Gunnedah farmer Scott Morgan forecast upcoming cotton season

Cotton
ON THE UP: Gunnedah farmer Scott Morgan is optimistic of this season's cotton prospects after a wet spring. Photo: Billy Jupp

ON THE UP: Gunnedah farmer Scott Morgan is optimistic of this season's cotton prospects after a wet spring. Photo: Billy Jupp

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Full soil profiles to boost farmers hampered by low groundwater allocations.

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FAVOURABLE spring conditions across the state have prompted cotton farmers to begin planting ahead of the summer season.

However, not all producers are off to a flying start, with limited rainfall in northern catchments limiting farmers' options

Cotton Australia chief executive officer Adam Kay said the north west of the state was likely to plant a quarter of average crops, due to limited water allocations.

"Pindari Dam, Keepit Dam and Split Rock Dam haven't had the big inflows, so while that rainfall has been great for the cereals, it just hasn't landed in the catchments," Mr Kay said.

"If you look at southern NSW, we've seen good increases in allocations and we're seeing good planting in the Murrumbidgee, Murray and even improved prospects in the Macquarie.

"If you go further north into the St George, Dirranbandi and Darling Downs areas, it's a bit better, but unfortunately Border Rivers, Gwydir, Namoi just haven't had the inflows into the headwater storages that we might have hoped.

"There is a bit going into the ground on full profiles, (but) unfortunately there's a bit of a hole in the production."

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The limited allocations come after several years of drought for the region, which severely hampered cotton production.

"For the industry as a whole, we're predicting 2.3 million bales across Australia, up from less than 600,000 last year, which is almost a four-fold increase," Mr Kay said.

"It was purely drought and the fact it wasn't in the ground that caused for such low numbers last season.

"It just goes to show you how bad last year was because it was roughly about one-eighth of a normal crop.

"There's been a bit of a bounce back but unfortunately, the North West of NSW is a bit of a hole at the moment."

Despite the challenges brought on by limited allocations, Mr Kay said he was confident crops would fetch good prices after harvest.

"Anyone that has got allocation and has forward sold some of their crop, at the moment the price is sitting at around $530 a bale," he said.

"Historically, that's not too bad, it's just that is has come off a bit earlier in the year from around the $600 mark.

"Pre-COVID-19 it was trading at around $620, so while it has come off a little bit it is still a reasonable price.

"We're estimating, as far as irrigated cotton goes, to see 13,000 hectares in the Border Rivers area, 15,000ha in the Gwydir, 6000ha at Walgett, 9000ha at Bourke, Upper Namoi 15,000ha and Lower Namoi 12,000ha."

Gunnedah farmer Scott Morgan is among the many farmers to take advantage of a full-soil profile and plant an irrigated crop.

"We certainly have more in compared to the last two seasons, which is because we have a full profile and we've got water in storage," Mr Morgan said.

"Even though we have been cut back on our groundwater licenses this year, we're still looking quite optimistic.

"I think there would be a lot more optimism around the region, including for dryland crops, because of those full profiles."

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