NT Government Promotes Benefits Of Cotton In The Top End

The cotton industry continues to grow in the Katherine region and adapt modern technology to produce some of the best quality fibre cotton in the world.

The Big Rivers-based Territory cotton industry expects to create 2500 regional and remote jobs by 2030 and play an important part in the NT Government creating a $40 billion economy by the end of the decade.

Cotton production has evolved in the past 15 years, with the techniques used to generate the natural fibre using less irrigation and becoming environmentally friendly.

The fully biodegradable fibre is produced by Territory farmers using world-leading environmental and water management systems with cotton grown mainly using wet season rainfall.

Modern day cotton crops use 48 per cent less water when compared to the industry 15 years ago. When the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade began growing cotton in 2019/20, 80 per cent of the 800 hectare crop was rain fed.

It is anticipated that 90 per cent of the cotton produced in the NT will rain fed, with farmers using the plentiful wet season rain to water crops. Rain fed crops do not receive any irrigation.

In 2020/21, 12 cotton farmers had planted 8000 ha of cotton with only 2 per cent using irrigation.

Genetic engineering improvements in cotton has seen a 97 per cent decrease in the use of pesticides on cotton since 1993.

NT Farmers works with environmental regulators and policy makers to ensure the industry meets community expectations.

NT Farmers CEO Paul Burke said the Territory’s cotton industry was in an exciting period and modern practices meant the fibre was produced sustainably.

“The way cotton is grown using modern techniques removes a lot of the concerns that were attached to the crop 20 years ago,” he said.

“The cotton industry represents a new opportunity for jobs in the Katherine region which will continue to grow towards the end of the decade.”

Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade Senior Executive Director of Agriculture Phil Hausler said the use of biotechnology in cotton had significantly reduced chemical and water usage and revolutionised industry potential in the Northern Territory.

“We have gained a significant amount of agronomic knowledge on cotton crops grown in the NT environment and always working on improving strategies to further enhance crop yield in the future,” he said.

Cotton Australia General Manager Michael Murray said interest in growing cotton in the NT came from farmers.

“We will support them in every way we can as they develop a viable new agricultural industry in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way,” he said.

“Cotton Australia greatly appreciates the assistance of the NT Government in assisting the cotton industry to develop, therefore adding economic and employment benefits to the NT.

“While the vast majority of cotton grown in the NT is grown using the rain-fed model, any water allocation for cotton and other crops has to be in accordance with government regulations.

“The emergence of a new cotton gin near Katherine will have incredible benefits for local growers who will no-longer need to cart their cotton lint to gins in Queensland and other locations.

“Another benefit for the NT in cotton growing is the supply of cotton seed which is highly sought after as a nutritional, protein rich source of feed for cattle.”