Southern Cotton

NSW produces about two-thirds of Australia's cotton.

While northern NSW is the largest cotton growing region, new short-season varieties have made cotton a viable crop further south.

Southern Cotton's new cotton gin in the Murrumbidgee Valley brings the latest technology to southern NSW.The Southern Cotton gin at Whitton, NSW

Southern Cotton General Manager, Kate O'Callaghan, said cotton provides an additional crop for farmers to rotate in an area that grows a mix of summer and winter grain crops. Ms O'Callaghan said, "Cotton's return per megalitre is the best of the summer crops."

Cotton ginning is the process of removing cotton seed from the lint. The lint is cleaned, baled and sold to cotton merchants. Cotton seed is sold as stock feed and is used for oil extraction. More than half of Southern Cotton's seed is exported.

The cotton industry is one of Australia's largest rural export earners, generating approximately $1 billion per year in exports.

The latest technology

The Southern Cotton plant uses the latest technology from around the world, including moisture measurement, quality measurement, arc detection and tracking technology that can follow each bale from paddock to finished product. This provides valuable information for farmers to improve their management practices.

"Our farmers can extrapolate the quality data of each finished bale to the paddock where it was grown, so they can see the effects of their management techniques on the finished product," Ms O'Callaghan said.

In its first season, Southern Cotton processed 166,234 bales, an Australian record for a gin's first year of production. Now in full operation, the plant has the capacity to process 200,000 bales in 120 days.

"Our gin provides fast, timely ginning with improved gin turnout. Being local, we also provide farmers with freight savings," Ms O'Callaghan said.

"With water allocations reduced, farmers are increasingly looking for crops where they can get the best use for their water."

Assisted by NSW Department of Industry

The department provided financial assistance to upgrade electricity infrastructure in the region, enabling the plant to be on line more quickly and guaranteeing a source of reliable power.

"That assistance was absolutely critical. Reliable power is crucial in our high tech operation," Ms O'Callaghan said.

Download the Southern Cotton case study

Publication date: March 2014