There’s growing optimism in the agricultural sector that the cotton industry will expand into northern Australia.
At the Northern Australia Food Futures Conference in Darwin this month, cotton and how the industry could grow was a hot topic of discussion.
This season, 350 hectares of cotton was grown at Kununurra in north-east Western Australia. That crop will be trucked to Dalby in Queensland for ginning.
There’s hope that if all goes well, the amount of cotton grown in the region could eventually expand to thousands of hectares.
At the conference, Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay spoke to ABC Radio’s Northern Territory Country Hour and said there is genuine enthusiasm for cotton in northern Australia.
“If you want to upscale and start growing big areas, you’ve got to have demand. To have demand, you’ve got to be growing a commodity that’s in demand globally, and that’s what you’ve got with cotton,” he said.
“We need farmers that are willing to invest their dollars to make this happen. Governments can only do so much in setting the policy parameters and the framework, and then you just need private enterprise to come in and take over.”
“We hope that over the years, the research we’ve done up here in the north has shown them that you can grow the crop, and so now it’s just up to them to make the investments.”
Mr Kay told ABC Radio the process of expanding the cotton industry into northern Australia had to be done properly and should not be rushed.
“To get the first commercial scale over there [in WA] is quite exciting, and then I think it will spread once it’s really proven over in WA,” he said.
“We’ve got smart farmers in this country that have got a land asset and a water asset, and they’re just trying to combine those to make the best possible return. When we go to scale, sometimes that best return comes from cotton.”
“If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to do it right.”