AFTER battling years of drought, the cotton industry is back in business with pickers moving through a record 4.056 million bale crop, which is estimated to be worth $2.3 billion.
While crop maturity has been delayed by wet and waterlogged conditions through the growing season, harvest is now well under way around St George and Dirranbandi and is starting to move into stride in Central Queensland.
Queensland is expected to produce 1.8 million bales and NSW 2.3 million.
Gins at Moree and Mungindi are already operating 24 hours a day and the remainder are expected to be up and running within two weeks.
Cotton Australia national communications manager David Bone said growers in most areas, except those hit hard by flooding, were set to achieve above-average yields.
"Yield varies from area to area, but overall the expectation is that growers are going to be able to achieve ‘personal best’ crops this year," he said.
"With all the water storages full it is quite likely we will see this sort of number again next year.
"The bottom line is that if the seasonal conditions are favourable, we have the water available for next year to get to the same sort of number."
Namoi Cotton Co-operative trading manager Clinton Uebergang of Toow-oomba, said while prices were still at historically high levels the cotton market had been exceptionally volatile in the past week.
"The futures market had a range of US26 cents/pound," he said.
"Supplies are still very tight for the current crop, which is feeding the volatility.
"Prices have eased below $900/bale due to futures trading off their highs and the physical market slowing down.
"Prices for next year’s crop have been trading up to $650/bale and have been increasing following the United States planting intentions report, which pegged US acreage at lower levels than industry forecasts.
"Physical market demand for next year’s crops is higher because it is trading at a discount to current crop levels."
THE cotton the Valler family has grown this season on their Chinchilla farm, The Limes, has had more than its share of setbacks compared to the prize-winning crop they grew last season, but it’s still shaping up as a handy earner.
Last year Ralph and Elizabeth Valler and their son and daughter-in-law Malcolm and Sarah Valler grew a crop of Sicot 71BRF that won the RASQ dryland cotton crop competition and went on to be reserve champion crop overall.
This year they have grown 632 hectares of cotton ? a little more than usual because there had been extra soil moisture available at planting time.
"But the year has been too wet with waterlogging and we won’t get a big crop this year," Mr Valler said.
They expect yields will vary from 1.8 to 3.75 bales a hectare when picking starts in about 10 days.