Australian Cotton History


  • 1788 - The First Fleet brings cottonseed to Australia


  • 1830 - First shipment of cotton exported to England, consisting of three bags
  • 1857 - Small quantities of dryland cotton grown in Queensland
  • 1861-65 - American Civil War causes American cotton production to fall. Australia attempts to fill the gap. Aboriginal and Islander labour is a significant component of cotton operations in South-east Queensland
  • 1870s - Australian cotton production peaks then falls as world prices decline


  • 1926 - The Queensland Cotton Marketing Board is established. Government subsidy introduced to promote production in central Queensland
  • 1934 - Cotton production reaches 17,000 bales
  • 1954 - Cotton industry almost non-existent
  • 1958 - Keepit Dam is completed on the Namoi River in NSW, providing irrigation water to the Namoi Valley
  • 1960 - Limited irrigated cotton production commences in south-west Queensland
  • 1961 - Commercial crop planted at Wee Waa, using water from Keepit Dam
  • 1966 - Cotton established in the Macquarie Valley following completion of the Burrendong Dam. Cotton production also begins at Bourke
  • 1968 - Emerald Irrigation Area produces first exportable surplus
  • 1971 - Raw Cotton Bounty removed at the request of the cotton industry. Cotton production reaches 87,000 bales
  • 1973 - Cotton production on the Ord River Scheme ceases, mainly due to insect resistance to pesticides
  • 1975 - Cotton production reaches 110,000 bales
  • 1976 - Cotton established in Gwydir Valley at Moree using water from the newly constructed Copeton Dam
  • 1977 - The construction of the Pindari and Glenlyon Dams allows cotton to be grown in the Macintyre Valley in Southern Queensland
  • 1980 - Cotton production reaches 435,000 bales
  • 1985 - Cotton production reaches 1.1 million bales
  • 1990 - Cotton industry self-funds First Environmental Audit, leading to introduction of Best Management Practices (BMP)
  • 1992 - World record yields in Australia lead to record 2.2 million bale crop
  • 1995 - Drought causes harvest to fall to 1.5 million bales
  • 1996 - The first transgenic cotton variety (Ingard®) introduced to Australia
  • 1997 - Cotton production reaches 2.7 million bales


  • 2001 - Crop reaches record high of 3.4 million bales
  • 2001 - World cotton price reaches lowest level in nearly 30 years
  • 2002 - Roundup Ready® cotton introduced to Australia
  • 2002/04 - Worst drought in 100 years results in 60 per cent reduction in crop size
  • 2003 - Cotton industry undertakes Second Environmental Audit
  • 2003 - Transgenic Bollgard II® trait introduced in Australia, replacing Ingard®
  • 2005 - Australian crop sets new world record yield, leading to a 2.9 million bale crop
  • 2005/06 - 95% of Australia’s cotton growers plant transgenic varieties, accounting for 80 per cent of total cotton crop
  • 2007/08 - Australian cotton industry severely impacted by drought, leading to smallest crop in 30 years
  • 2008/09 - A new path is set for Cotton Australia as it merges with a key research partner, the Australian Cotton Growers Research Association (ACGRA)
  • 2009/10 - myBMP re-launched as an electronic, internet-based program, significant rains across cotton areas commences in August 2010
  • 2010/11 - Record crop of 4.1 million bales, industry in resurgence after almost a decade of drought
  • 2011/12: Cotton continues to expand into the Riverina in southern NSW and the industry celebrates a back-to-back record crop of 5.3 million bales
  • 2012: Cotton Australia celebrates  the organisation’s 40th anniversary
  • 2013/14: Third year in a row recording a crop of more than 4 million bales
  • 2013: The Australian cotton industry co-founds Cotton LEADS™ a partnership between the Australian and US cotton industries demonstrating a commitment to the supply and use of responsibly-produced cotton through national and international efforts.
  • 2014: Cotton Australia signs an agreement with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) on behalf of Australia’s cotton industry to help secure access to future growth markets as Australian cotton growers contend with competition from synthetic fibres. The agreement transfers a BCI licence to Australian cotton produced under myBMP certification
  • 2014: The 17th Australian Cotton Conference was held on the Gold Coast and attracted more than 1800 delegates, the biggest attendance on record in the event’s 34-year history
  • 2014: Cotton Australia at the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) release the Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report 2014
  • 2014/15: lack of water reduces Australian crop to 2.2 million bales
  • 2015/16 season: there was a slight bounce in Australian cotton yield, with 2.7 million bales produced
  • 2016/17: the upward trend continued, with Australia producing 3.8 million bales of cotton
  • 2017/18: Australian cotton crop estimated to be its largest in four years, with 4.5 million bales forecast to be produced


© Cotton Australia 2018. This material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International License (CC BY CC BY-NC 4)