Australian Cotton Industry Overview

The average Australian cotton farm:

  • is family owned and operated
  • directly creates jobs for 6-7 people
  • is run by growers with an average age of 39 years
  • grows 305 hectares of cotton, comprising 14% of the total farm area
  • supplements cotton with other crops including wheat, chickpeas and sorghum, and many Australian cotton farmers also graze sheep and cattle
  • dedicates 42% of farm area to native vegetation
  • There are more than 1200 cotton farms in Australia, roughly 66% in NSW and 33% Queensland
  • The industry directly employs 10,000 Australians in a non-drought year (source: Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report, 2014)
  • The cotton industry employs 15 times as many people as grazing and five times as many people as dryland cropping. (source: Stubbs Report, 2012)
  • The Australian cotton industry produced a record crop in 2011/2012, with more than 583,000 hectares planted. This area produced more than 5 million bales, with a total forecast value of close to $3 billion.
  • Australian irrigated lint yields are now the highest of any major cotton producing country in the world, being about three times the world average - this means Australia cotton growers produce more crop per drop
  • The top 20% of Australian growers achieved yields of 12 bales/hectare in 2013 (source: Boyce Report, 2014). Average irrigated crop yields exceeded 10 bales/ha for the first time in 2008-09 and reached record levels in 2012-13 at 10.73 bales/ha - growing more cotton with the same amount of land (source: Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report, 2014)
  • Most of this yield gain is attributed to seed technology
  • For the past 10 years, the average annual amount of cotton lint produced in Australia was 641,806 metric tonnes (2,827,338 bales). Production reached a record high in 2011-12 at 1,215,870 metric tonnes (5.3 million bales) and a low in 2007-08 at 136,831 metric tonnes (600,000 bales). The average annual production quantity from 2014-2017 is 3.2 million bales
  • Cotton is mostly grown in the 400-800mm summer rainfall zone in Queensland and NSW, which means cotton crops can receive significant amounts of their water needs from rain during the growing season
  • Cotton is a major commodity, representing from 30 to 60 percent of the gross value of the total agricultural production in Australian regions where it is grown (source: Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report, 2014)
  • Cotton is one of Australia’s largest rural export earners and helps underpin the viability of more than 152 rural communities
  • The major production area in NSW stretches south from the Macintyre River on the Queensland border and covers the Gwydir, Namoi and Macquarie valleys. In NSW cotton is also grown along the Barwon and Darling rivers in the west and the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers in the south
  • In Queensland, cotton is grown mostly in the south in the Darling Downs, St George, Dirranbandi and Macintyre Valley regions and the remainder is grown near Emerald, Theodore and Biloela in Central Queensland
  • Australia uses 100% local seed (source, ICAC, 2011)
  • In an average year, Australia’s cotton growers produce enough cotton to clothe 500 million people
  • Australia has an enviable reputation on the world market as a reliable supplier of very high quality cotton, and can command a premium price for this reason. Varieties from CSIRO’s cotton plant breeding program has improved yield, High Volume Instrument (HVI) classing quality and are showing superior textile performance attributes. (source: Cotton Conference Paper, Michael Bange and Robert Long, 2012)
  • Australia produces around 3% of the world’s cotton but is the third largest exporter, behind the USA and India.
  • The major buyers of Australian cotton are currently China (30 percent), Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Thailand (source: Australian Cotton Shippers Association, 2018)


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