Water flow potentially grows cotton industry in North Queensland

Wednesday, 25th July 2012 // Breaking News // Comments (0)

The nation’s newest cotton crop could soon be blooming across Queensland’s northern outback, following the decision to allocate 95,000 megalitres of water for irrigation along the Flinders and Gilbert Rivers around Richmond in Queensland’s North West.

On Tuesday, Minister Andrew Cripps announced a release of unallocated water will occur on Thursday 26 July 2012 and will close on the 28 of September 2012.  The allocation for the Flinders River is 80 000 megalitres and the Gilbert river 15 000 megalitres, with a maximum limit per proponent of 32 000 mgs out of the Flinders River and 6 000mgs from the Gilbert River.

The Minister said the allocation will be released by a tender process to landowners along the rivers who can present the best and most productive case possible to be profitable and sustainable agricultural enterprises for small, medium and large producers.

“There is an undisclosed reserve price that will remain unnamed as part of the tender process, the price is based on cost recovery, it is a mature price and is based on productive purposes to prevent sleeper licences.”

The Minister said if there is a strong interest and applications for allocation they will consider a review of the amount allocated in the future.  The water will be fully tradable and a separate title to land.

More information is available from the website dnrm.qld.gov.au.

At the announcement ceremony of the Flinders River Agricultural Precinct, Renee Anderson, Regional Manager from Cotton Australia facilitated a group of growers from Emerald including Neek Morawitz, Wayne Reeves, Rossy Burnett, Ian Burnett along with Cotton Australia Board Members, Simon Corish and Hamish MacIntyre as well as two industry representatives, Rick Jones from QLD Cotton and Lance Pendergast Irrigation specialist from DAFF to provide information for farmers along the Flinders & Gilbert Rivers who were keen to discuss the potential for cotton in their area.

Cotton Australia’s Policy Manager for Queensland, Michael Murray welcomed the announcement by Qld Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps along with Agriculture Minister John McVeigh who were joined by Federal Minister for Regional Development Simon Crean at the North West Irrigators Forum.

Mr Murray says the opportunity for cotton in the region had been recognised for a long time with research crops in the mid 90’s demonstrating the area’s potential to sustainably grow cotton, along with a small number of commercial crops, including one this year.

“While this newly allocated water will be available for a variety of uses, cotton is probably the best returning annual crop for the area on a gross margin basis. Combine that with our focus on increasing water efficiency along with the cotton industry’s track record for supporting new entrants by sharing research information and we would expect to see significant interest from potential new cotton growers along the Flinders River.”

He says making this initial water available is just the beginning and both the Federal and Queensland government will now need to seriously look at the provision of additional water and  infrastructure.

“Cotton could bring jobs and investment into the Flinders River Catchment, providing growth for towns like Richmond and Hughenden, but capitalising on that potential means we’ll need better roads, improved transport links and government support for an eventual cotton gin,” Mr Murray said.

The forum was also the venue for the very first Irrigators Association in this area of Queensland, with Cotton Australia Regional Manager Renee Anderson on hand to provide practical advice about establishing a new representative group for local cotton growers and hopefully one day becoming part of the Cotton Growers Association in the future.

Cotton Australia would like to thank Corbett and Berys Tritton and their family for hosting the group and providing the accommodation, it was greatly appreciated.