Around 85% of the Australian cotton crop has now been picked with growers and cotton gin operators reporting better than expected yields and, in some cases exceptional quality despite the challenges.

Cotton Australia General Manager Michael Murray said indications are that the 2022/23 crop may just fall short of last year’s result of 5.6 million bales which was a record year.

“With good rainfall leading to healthy soil profiles and good water storage results, we had forecast a positive result in 2022 and we achieved some of the best yields on record in some areas.

“That rainfall became a problem in parts of New South Wales and southern Queensland in late 2022 with severe flooding recorded in many growing areas as well as crop and infrastructure damage. The conditions at that point led to a downgrade in expectations.

“I’m pleased to say that better conditions, including a warmer than expected start to 2023, resulted in a boost for growers and the results are now becoming clear,” Mr Murray said.

The quality of the crop ginned and classed to date is exceptionally high with lint that is white and clean while also recording good fibre length and strength.

Cotton quality is measured by a variety of factors including the colour, strength, contamination by leaf and other plant matter, staple length and micronaire, which is a measure of fibre maturity.

Mr Murray said the timing for Australian growers is good with crops processed through gins lining up with the increased shipping capacity as shipments traditionally ramp up through to September.

“Industry forecasts suggest that while US and Brazilian cotton is being traded at significant volumes to some of our trading partners, our cotton is considered to be of the best value when you take into consideration the quality, the lower transportation costs and the turnaround times.”

The crop results come as the growing footprint of cotton in Australia continues to expand as more growers consider cotton in north Queensland, the Northern Territory and northwest WA.

Mr Murray said cotton can grow across a wide geographical range and climatic conditions with scope for growth in many areas north of the Victorian and NSW Border.

“We are hearing reports of growers in coastal Queensland locations adding cotton to their rotations and doing very well. And while some areas are considered ideal because of the rainfall and temperatures, cotton can thrive in other conditions and provide a profitable alternative.

“Some growers see the lack of nearby cotton gins as an issue but with a gin close to completion in the NT, a commitment to build one in the Ord River area, and plenty of positive industry talk about one for North Queensland, those transport costs will become less of an impediment,” Mr Murray said.

It has also been a record year for the production of myBMP cotton with over a third of the crop certified under the program. myBMP cotton also qualifies as Better Cotton under an agreement between BC and CA.

Mr Murray said important consultation is advanced across the industry as part of the roadmap process that is looking at some of the key issues confronting the industry. “Cotton Australia, ACSA and CRDC are collaborating to develop a Strategic Roadmap for the Australian Cotton Industry that will help the industry remain competitive in a changing fashion and textiles market.”

Five key topic areas will be addressed with broad consultation across industry, farmers and stakeholders: traceability, industry data, sustainably certified cotton/myBMP program and Australian cotton marketing.

Mr Murray said the global market remains very positive for our cotton overseas. “We sell every bale we grow, so clearly the global demand is there, and as global economic conditions improve, so too will demand for our cotton which is seen as among the highest quality produced.”