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Local Round Up – Cotton Growing in the Riverina

Local Round Up – Cotton Growing in the Riverina

The Riverina region of NSW produces over one-quarter of all fruit and vegetables produced in NSW and is also one of Australia’s largest exporters of bulk wines. Agriculture is the backbone of the Riverina’s economic prosperity and the region is often referred to as Australia’s Food Bowl.  

The mighty Murrumbidgee River in the Riverina provides the region’s farmers with access to water and irrigation systems. The various geographic and climatic conditions across the Food Bowl, coupled with the extensive irrigation infrastructure, means the region is home to a vast array of primary produce including dairy, grain, livestock, wine, fruit, vegetables, cotton, rice, tree nuts, timber and fertilisers. As the region continues to evolve, producers are adapting and diversifying into new and lucrative crops.[1]

Cotton has caused an economic renaissance in southern NSW, as farmers are choosing to plant it instead of rice. The crop commonly used for textiles is much more profitable, reliable, requires less water and creates more jobs.[2]

Cotton and its by-products are used in the production of bank notes, margarine, rubber and medical supplies.

Most cotton farms in the Riverina region are family owned and operated, producing yields 2.5 times the global average. Increases in yield have been attributed to plant breeding and better water management with the Australian cotton industry now known for producing a high-quality fibre that is esteemed in Asia with a premium price to match.

In 2011, there were only 18,000 hectares of cotton grown in the region. In 2015, there was 36,000, and a growing interest in the crop has seen the 2016 numbers grow to 58,000 hectares harvested for cotton.[3]

The recent purchase by Australian investment firm, Blue Sky, of Hayloch and Katika at Gunbar is set to further expand cotton area in the Riverina district of southern NSW.[4]

Traditionally, much of the Riverina region’s agriculture was heavily invested in wool with wool bales regularly being trucked out of the region destined for Australia wide distribution or export. However, cotton is now starting to gain traction in the region thanks to the advent of new varieties which can cope with cooler climates as well as the high value of Australian cotton to the export market.

Cotton exports from southern New South Wales were valued at $150 million in 2012-13.

Within the Food Bowl region there are currently two cotton gins, in Whitton and in Hillston, with two more under construction in Hay and Carrathool soon becoming operational. The main export markets for Australian cotton are in East Asia, with over 75% sold to China. Seed is also exported to South East Asia and the US. The domestic market is primarily based in Melbourne and Sydney.

The main export markets for Australian cotton are in East Asia, with over 75% sold to China. Seed is also exported to South East Asia and the US. The domestic market is primarily based in Melbourne and Sydney.

The major centres of the Riverina include the City of Wagga Wagga and Griffith.[5]

APG’s agriculture and specialist farming labour hire team can meet flexible staffing needs to meet peak workloads and seasonal variations without the worries of long term contracts.

APG’s office in the Riverina is located at Unit 2 100-102 Yambil St, GRIFFITH.
Phone: (02) 6962 4995.


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