Cotton Australia says demand high for its licensing as growers face lower yields

Australian shoppers will start to see more locally grown cotton products in stores, even as cotton production drops worldwide. 

The Australian cotton industry has broken national records for its production in recent years and while has slowed this season, the industry’s work to market itself as a sustainable fibre option has paid off.   

Industry body Cotton Australia has been working with brands and retailers for the past decade to encourage them to make their products with cotton grown in Australia. 

“Australian cotton … it’s traceable, it’s sustainably produced and those brands and retailers, they want to be part of that,” chief executive Adam Kay said.  

“Australians are very patriotic [and] if they can’t buy Australian made, the next best thing is Australian grown.”

Cotton grown in Australia is sent through cotton gins to be cleaned and baled before being exported to spinning mills in countries such as Vietnam where it is turned into yarn which can be made into thread or fabric.

Close up photo of a label that says Australian Cotton with a barcode underneath the label is sitting on top of a bale of cotton

The majority of Australian cotton is sent to Vietnam.(Supplied: Australian Cotton Shippers Association)

Brands and retailers can apply to display the Australian Cotton mark on their products, from underwear to socks, towels, sheets and clothing. 

Mr Kay said there had been a 91 per cent increase in licensed products bearing the mark, totalling almost 29 million items. 

“Clothes made out of Australian cotton, it’s really resonating with the Australian public,” Mr Kay said.  

Cotton is Australia’s fourth-most valuable agricultural export, according to the Department of Agriculture, with last season’s export crop valued at $4.9 billion, an increase of 120 per cent on the previous year.    

A close up photo of cotton on the plant, it's bright and fluffy attached to a green plant with large leaves

Growers are weeks away from harvesting in central Queensland.(ABC News: Megan Hughes)

Production down 

This year’s forecast cotton crop of 4.5 million bales is about 1 million bales fewer than last year’s crop. 

A US Department of Agriculture market outlook noted cotton production was down across the globe, with China, the US and Australia each estimated to experience crop declines greater than 10 per cent.

Conditions were dry during the planting window in Australia, and some growers did not have access to a water allocation to irrigate their crop.

A field of cotton under a stormy sky, the ground looks parched and cracked. The crop is still green with white fluffy locks

Robert McDonald has planted 250 hectares of cotton on his farm in Theodore.(ABC Rural: Megan Hughes)

Theodore cotton grower Robert McDonald said he had planted 250 hectares at his central Queensland property, which was a typical planting for him.

He said he took a punt as prices remained strong.

“It was pretty dry at the start, the rain came along … it’s not looking too bad now,” he said. 

Mr McDonald said other growers in the region had planted fewer hectares because of a lack of available water. 

He said the season had been hot and humid, with a lot of hot, overcast days making it difficult for the crop to grow. 

With only weeks to go until harvest, he said growers were deciding whether or not to keep their crop in the ground longer to get a better yield. 

Mr McDonald, who also works as a contract picker harvesting on other farms, said the recent rain had meant the harvest had been delayed. 

“Hopefully we’ll get going next month,” he said. 

Stories from farms and country towns across Australia, delivered each Friday.

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