Cotton Matters ? 22 December 2011

Thursday, 22nd December 2011 // Cotton Matters // Comments (0)

China’s appetite for Australian cotton still strong

First hand market intelligence following a trade delegation to North Asia shows the Chinese remain heavily focused on Australian Cotton.

Recently returned from an Australian Government backed trade mission to Shanghai, Cotton Australia director and St George cotton grower, Hamish McIntyre says many challenges facing Australian growers, like competition for available labour, is exactly the same problem confronting our northern neighbours.

Mr McIntyre says the expansion in Chinese manufacturing is simply mind blowing and the growth in this sector of China’s economy is placing massive demands on their rural workforce.

“Recruiters are scouring China’s cotton growing areas, looking for labour to fill positions in newly opened factories and they are prepared to pay top dollar, leaving many farm managers without the large numbers of workers needed to pick the Chinese cotton crop in the traditional way, by hand.”

He says for many Chinese cotton growers, the only solution will be a rapid program of mechanisation, and they would dearly love to have 200-300 experienced Australia cotton farm managers to help bring that technology online.

“The wage difference between the top price the Chinese can afford to pay and local wages down under means there won’t be too many Aussies cotton farm managers packing their bags any time soon.”

Mr McIntyre says the desire for Australian farm expertise is a direct result of the continued high regard the Chinese have for quality Australian Cotton products.

“The one consistent message I received from the Chinese during my visit is that there are practically endless opportunities for the Australian Cotton Industry within China and their desire for Australian cotton, seed, lint, technology and experience shows no signs of abating.”

Pick N Match rides again

The online matching service connecting growers with picking contractors, “Pick N Match” will be back in business in the New Year.

Established by Cotton Australia and operated on the CA website, the free service was very popular last season, allowing picking contractors to post their details online, with growers then able to search by location, equipment and capacity.

Using the techniques pioneered by online dating agencies, Pick N Match took the concept in a different direction, allowing very busy picking and spraying contractors to match up with growers.

With possibly a record harvest ahead, this season demand for picking services will be extremely tight and making arrangements with contractors sooner rather than later will be the best approach.

Contractors can send their details directly to Cotton Australia now in preparation for the relaunch of Pick N Match early in 2012. 

CA supports GP super clinic for Emerald

Cotton Australia has a long history in supporting the health and welfare of cotton communities. Now Cotton Australia is proud to lend our support to the growing campaign for the establishment of a GP Super Clinic in Emerald to be run by the Central Highlands Health Group.

Living in remote and rural locations brings many challenges and many rewards, and for cotton growers the joy of working and raising our families in the bush is often tempered by concern over access to the quality medical services which many urban people take for granted.

The proposed GP Super Clinic run by the community led Central Highlands Health Group will bridge this gap for the local Emerald area by providing more GP consultations, more services and programs run by nurses and allied health professionals and bringing in Specialists that currently don't exist in Emerald.

The GP Super Clinic in Emerald will also play a major role in training the next generation of rural health professionals.  This will be a significant advantage in attracting and retaining staff in rural areas, by allowing staff to be trained in the regional areas where they will be working.

Cotton Australia has now backed this important project, writing a letter supporting and endorsing the campaign to secure a GP Super clinic in Emerald.
 
Building Consumer trust in Agriculture – An international perspective and a cotton case study

Cotton Australia recently participated in a workshop hosted by NSW DPI and the Australia Pacific Extension Network. The workshop is one of a series of engagements Charlie Arnot, from the Centre of Food Integrity in the USA, is conducting on the concept of social license and building trust, understanding and confidence in agriculture.

Charlie Arnot was in Australia as the key note speaker for the Australasia – Pacific Extension National Forum. Charlie is an internationally recognised and thought provoking speaker with unsurpassed experience in building trust and confidence in our agriculture and food systems.

The workshop focussed on the need for agriculture to better communicate with its audiences, and to do so from a value – based approach. It looked at the methodologies used by the Center for Food Integrity to build consumer trust and confidence and its applicability to agricultural industries and the issues faced in Australia.

The workshop explored positive and tested strategies to deal with the challenging environment of consumer and community engagement activists and anticipatory issues management. Advances in technology and developments in size and scale of Australian agriculture as well as geographical distance, has made it difficult for consumers to relate to agriculture.

The concept of AGvocacy (agricultural advocacy) via media/ social media was explored and the notion of telling the story of agriculture in the right way, i.e. portraying agriculture positively rather than through typical negative and sometimes ‘shocking’ farming stories that can be featured in the media (e.g. relating to animal welfare). 

These issues are addressed in a book recently published by CSIRO, ‘Defending the Social Licence of Farming’, indicating that the concept of social license is not new, however it is becoming of increasing importance to farmers and agricultural industries. Farmers are increasingly expected to demonstrate their social and environmental responsibility in continuing to carry out farming practices. Current examples include the live animal export trade, battles over protection of aquifers from mining, and contests over rural carbon emissions.

The book features a cotton case study, using the industry as a positive example in successfully retaining a social license and addressing consumer perceptions through the use of proactive initiatives. The case study chapter is authored by Guy Roth and outlines how the use of innovations, technology and development of the Cotton BMP program have been part of a cost effective strategy and means for ensuring environmentally conscious practices are used across the industry. 

‘Defending the Social Licence of Farming’, is edited by Jacqueline Williams and Paul Martin and is available online through CSIRO publishing, http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6651.htm

Natural Disaster Relief extended in Queensland

The Queensland State Government has announced an extension to the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) assistance measures.

Under the new arrangements, the deadline for applications under NDRRA, which includes grants and concessional loans has been extended until June 30 2012. The cut off had previously been January 31.

Eligible growers should act quickly to ensure they can access this assistance, as applications should not be left till the last minute when the closing date approaches.

To date more than $259 million has been approved for 14,750 eligible primary producers, businesses and not-for-profit organisations across Queensland in the form of grants and loans to assist in recovery.

Both Category C and D assistance under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) will be extended.

Category C assistance consists of grants up to $25,000 for eligible small business and primary producers in the effected local government areas, Category D assistance includes special concessional loans of up to $650,000 for eligible businesses, primary producers and not-for-profit organisations suffering extreme damage, with a grant component of up to $50,000.

The assistance, administered by QRAA, has been available to flood and cyclone affected Queenslanders since December 2010 and March 2011 respectively.

To find out more about recovery grants and concessional loans contact QRAA on 1800 623 946 www.qraa.qld.gov.au

Work experience at Cotton Australia broadens Horizons

After two weeks work experience at Cotton Australia head office in Sydney, dairy farmer Naomi Marks from Dorrigo on the NSW North Coast reports on her inner city adventure.

It was the resurgence of Cotton Australia following nearly a decade in drought that encouraged me to consider doing my work experience with CA.

In 2010 I was awarded a Horizon scholarship, sponsored by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation for demonstrating leadership ability, academic excellence and significant community involvement. A part of the scholarship included the opportunity to undertake work experience with an agricultural institution.

Cotton Australia particularly interests me in this period of reinvigoration of public and educational materials. It is a vibrant, modern industry that excites me and I’m keen to get involved and learn more. I’m eager to attain new skills and insights whilst gaining a deeper understanding of the industry and potential career paths to consider when graduating next year.

My two weeks work experience with Cotton Australia follows the completion of my second year of an agribusiness degree with a major in marketing and management at UNE, Armidale.

During my fortnight at CA head office, I’ve learned a lot, particularly about policy and communications, as well as getting the opportunity to take part in meetings covering everything from next year’s Cotton Awards to the new Cotton Australia website.

The Horizon scholarship has allowed me to experience a workplace I’d otherwise not have been able to attend for work experience and after my time with Cotton Australia, I now know that I can really lock in my dream of securing an agribusiness career after graduation.
 
Cotton Australia Staff profile: Bec Fing

Bec Fing has cotton in her genes and a huge passion for the fibre that’s in our lives every single day. Growing up in Diranbandi, she has been inspired by the industry for many years.

After completing a degree at UNE in Armidale, Bec’s career has now led her to join the extension team at Cotton Australia.

Bec’s role as CA Regional Manager in the Macintyre Valley fundamentally provides a link between Cotton Australia and growers in the Border Rivers and Mungindi areas.

Bec identifies a labour shortage as a major issue for cotton, not only within her region but in all valleys. Weather is also an ongoing battle, but that’s a continual challenge we expect in the nature of growing cotton! She says the prospect of coal seam gas and mining, while not yet a major issue remains on the horizon.

Bec says the biggest change for her within the cotton industry has arisen from the rollout of Bollgard cotton which has enabled growers to fine tune aspects of crop production such as nutrition and irrigation efficiency rather than simply trying to stay on top of bugs.

As a result, Bec believes in the future, the cotton industry must continue to embrace innovation and technology in order to remain profitable, productive and sustainable.

Integral to this will be the involvement of youth in cotton. “Youth have always been and will continue to be important. Fresh eyes bring a fresh approach – always do what you have always done, you always get what you always got…young people contribute to breaking this cycle.”

When Bec isn’t spending her time working, dreaming and thinking about cotton, she loves spending time with her husband and children.

Last Cotton Matters for 2011

After another busy year for the team at Cotton Australia, it’s time to take a short break and send Cotton Matters on holidays!

The weekly version of your favourite Cotton Australia e-newsletter will be back again on Thursday 12 January 2012.

All the team at Cotton Australia, who enjoy putting out Cotton Matters each week would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and happy (and flood free!) New Year.

Dates for the diary:

If you are holding a field day or an event you would like to include in Cotton Matters, please contact David Bone at Cotton Australia on (02) 9669 5222 or email davidb@cotton.org.au