2022 looms as a big year for Australian Cotton

2022 looms as a big year for Australian Cotton

3min read

By ACSA Staff Writer

The Australian Cotton industry is preparing for what is likely to be one of the largest production seasons in it's history. Only two seasons after the smallest Australian crop in recent memory, the drought conditions that severely curtailed production over the previous three seasons are behind us. Widespread rainfall across the major cotton producing regions and irrigation system catchments in 2020 and 2021 has resulted in both government and private water storages filling to near capacity in time for planting of the 2022 crop.


Importantly, water allocations to irrigation license holders have reflected the significant increases into government regulated water storages. Southern basin license holders now have a 100% allocation against both general and high security licenses. In the northern basin all high security licenses have been granted full allocation and at the time of writing general security licenses have between 52% and 100% allocation, depending on the specific river system. It's difficult to overstate the importance of this replenishing of irrigation storages not only in the context of 2022 production, but in underpinning the 2023 crop as well.

In addition to widespread gains in stored water for irrigation, soil moisture level improvements will also encourage significant dryland plantings. In the leadup to the commencement of the planting period, significant rain has fallen across key dryland growing regions in QLD. With comparatively attractive returns relative to competing summer crops, many opportunistic farmers have planted dryland cotton to take advantage of the uncommon alignment of high cotton prices and favourable seasonal conditions at planting time.


With the stars seemingly aligned for Australian cotton growers, a large increase in production is predicted in 2022. Current estimates from ABARES forecast Australian cotton production of 1,044,000 MT in 2022, with other observers predicting a crop as large as 1,200,000 MT. It appears likely that Australia is destined in 2022 for one of its largest cotton crops.


One of the questions that such a large Australian cotton crop inevitably raises is that of the industry's ability to handle so many bales. Against the backdrop of supply chains that are already hampered from pandemic related issues, this question is particularly pertinent in 2021/2022. Pleasingly, the export of the 2021 crop has continued to gather pace throughout the current season, indicating improving supply chain efficiency. In September 2021, Australia exported some 556,000 bales of cotton, the largest monthly total for the year and the largest since August 2018. With Australian cotton exporters optimistic that shipping availability will improve in 2022, the industry is confident that it has sufficient logistical capacity to handle a large crop and meet the needs of our customers.


The Australian cotton industry is buoyant, encouraged by the turnaround in climatic conditions and increased plantings. But agriculture is a fickle pursuit - turbulent markets, an unrelenting mother nature and unforeseen "black swan" events are always waiting just around the corner. Armed with the knowledge of how quickly things can change, our industry is focussed on the task ahead. Our growers are focussed on the sustainable production of high quality, contamination free fibre. Our ginners are focussed on maintenance and upgrades in anticipation of a busy season. Our warehouses and shippers are focussed on ensuring the smooth movement of bales to our customers. It's an incredibly exciting time for the Australian cotton industry. We look forward to sharing the stories of the 2022 Australian cotton season season with you over the coming months.