There are up to 1,250 cotton farms in Australia, roughly half in NSW and half in Queensland.
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. The remainder is grown near Emerald, Theodore and Biloela in Central Queensland.
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.
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 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.
grows 495 hectares of cotton, comprising 17% 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.
In an average year, Australia’s cotton growers produce enough cotton to clothe 500 million people.
Australia produces around 3% of the world’s cotton but is the third largest exporter. The major buyers of Australian cotton are currently China (68 percent), Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Bangladesh and Japan (source: Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report, 2014).
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). In the 2014-2015 season, some regions reported yields as high as 15 to 16 bales a hectare- well above of the 2013-14 average (ABC Rural, May 2015).
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 five year average production quantity from 2009-2014 is 3.9 million bales.
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.
Australia uses 100% local seed. (source, ICAC, 2011).
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).
Australian irrigated lint yields are now the highest of any major cotton producing country in the world, being about three times the world average.
The Australian cotton industry has achieved a 40% increase in water productivity over the last decade. (source: Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report 2014).
Australia’s cotton growers have improved water use efficiency by 3-4% per year since 2003. (source: Third Australian Cotton Industry Environmental Assessment, September 2012).
Australian cotton growers have reduced their insecticide use by 89% over the last decade, with some crops not sprayed for insects at all.
Cotton growing has a better-than-neutral carbon footprint. Net on-farm emissions of greenhouse gases on cotton farms are negative because the cotton plants store more carbon than is released from production inputs used during growth.
The cotton industry uses an innovative system to support farmers adopt rigorous best practice standards. The myBMP (Best Management Practices) program has helped to deliver a responsible Australia cotton industry which is regarded as maintaining the world’s best practices and is seen as a model for change by other sectors of Australian agriculture.