Cotton is one of the oldest fibres used by human beings. Archaeologists have found cotton 5000 years old. Alexander the Great, around 300 BC, brought cotton goods into Europe but only the rich could afford it. The cotton plant grew wild in East Africa. Cotton belongs to the Hibiscus family. Our commercial varieties of cotton were developed from perennial shrubs in Central America. (Source A).
2. History of the cotton industry.
Governor Phillip brought cottonseeds to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788. However, substantial production really only occurred in the 1860's with the American Civil war creating a shortage for the English spinners. Large areas of dryland cotton were planted in Queensland to meet the demand. A similar burst in production occurred in the 1930's when the American cotton crop had boll weevil problems. By 1934 Australia's production had risen to 17,000 bales, but 20 years later our cotton industry was almost non existent.
Interest in cotton revived in the 1960's when the construction of major dams in northern NSW and southern Queensland enabled irrigated cotton production. Another boost to the industry was the arrival in Wee Waa of two American cotton growers who showed how to grow the crop. Irrigated and dryland planting have continued to expand since then. In 1998, production peaked at 3 million bales. (Source B).
3. Value of cotton industry to domestic/export to Australia.
Australia is the fourth largest cotton growing country in the world Cotton is Australia's fifth biggest rural export worth more than $800 million. (Source A).
The value of Australia's raw cotton is now more than $1.5 billion, while the meal and oil produced from cotton seed contribute a further $100 million to the Australian economy. Last year, Cotton Australia claimed a record in cotton production with production of 681 tonnes of raw cotton outstripping wool production for the first time in Australian history.