THE Australian cotton sector is set to consolidate its post-drought renaissance with forecasters tipping the 2021-22 crop to be the second best on record.
Cotton Australia says favourable conditions across most of Australia's cotton growing regions mean production estimates sit at 5.2 million bales, almost ten times larger than the drought impacted 2019-20 crop of 590,000 bales.
As well as good irrigated cotton plantings with solid water allocations there is also a significant dryland cotton plant.
Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay said after a reasonable crop in 2020-21 of 2.8m tonnes this year's forecast product was set to boost the nation's cotton sector.
He said it had not been a perfect season with slightly dry conditions through January in some parts and floodplain flooding in others causing yield reductions but he added many growers were pleased.
"The majority of growing regions have benefitted from warmer temperatures, good rain and manageable pest issues," Mr Kay said.
"Most of Australia's 1500 (cotton) growers are busy preparing for a good year and hoping they can find staff to help them through to harvest."
While the yield per hectare can also vary significantly, particularly with dryland and irrigated cotton, some are forecasting 12-14 bales a hectare under irrigation.
Good results are also expected in dryland areas because of solid rain and natural conditions, including a lack of protracted heat, this year.
In Queensland, AgForce grains section president Brendan Taylor said although cotton harvest was some time away feedback had been that crops were generally in good condition.
"Obviously there is variability but overall I think people are happy with where the crop is at present, although the dryland guys would still generally like to see a little more in-crop rainfall," Mr Taylor said.
Greg Rummery, agronomist at Walgett in north-west NSW, said there had been crop losses on true flood plain country, but said other dryland cotton crops were looking good.
"We did have some crop lost, but there will be quite a bit of cotton grown in the area this year the way things are looking," Mr Rummery said.
Mr Kay said when combined with high international cotton prices, the sector was set to be a big player in agriculture this year.
"We are seeing cotton futures trading at more than $A700 a bale and with strong global demand for quality cotton combined with low levels (of stocks) for sale in the US and China, the upward pressure on price is expected to continue."
Mr Kay said the industry was now looking at serious expansion beyond its traditional NSW and southern Queensland heartland.
He said cotton production was growing in North Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, which will continue to boost export value.
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