BoM Outlook – June to August
The June to August outlook, issued 31 May 2018, shows the southeast mainland of Australia is likely to be drier than average.
- June has high chances of being drier than average in the southeast mainland, and is also likely to be drier across much of central and western Australia, except the southwest.
- Winter days and nights are likely to be warmer than average for most of Australia, except parts of the far north.
- Broadscale climate drivers, such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Indian Ocean Dipole, are forecast to remain neutral during winter and thus have less influence on Australia’s climate.
- Below average pressure over the Tasman Sea is likely to weaken the westerlies that bring rain to southern Australia. See the Climate Influences section for more information.
For full details visit the BoM website
Rainfall boost helps finalise 2018 seeding
After an unfavorable start to the growing season, many of SA’s graingrowers have still managed to finish seeding programs on time.
But Riverland growers have not been as lucky after a lack of soil moisture slowed seeding progress until the beginning of this week.
In some districts, up to 85 per cent of farmers have finished seeding, and early-sown canola and cereal crops are performing the best under the drier conditions, compared with later-sown crops.
Wongyarra graingrower Russell Zwar finished his seeding program on May 15 and said stored soil moisture from the low summer rainfall helped to get the entire program sown on time.
“We use a zero-till system and used a stripper header for this first time last harvest to help maintain all of our stubble and act as a mulch, and control summer weeds to retain moisture – it definitely helped get the crops up and going.” he said.
Mid North independent agronomist Craig Davis, Salter Springs, said 85pc of growers in his region were finished seeding and the remaining growers should be finished within the week after additional rainfall helped to finalise barley and legume programs.
“A lot of growers worked hard to get their programs finished before the rainfall last weekend,” he said.
“Drier areas at Robertsown and Truro will sow barley and legumes this week and into the first week of June.”
Upper South East growers are about 80pc finished and Cox Rural Keith’s Scott Hutchings said the region had not received large amounts of rainfall but growers had enough soil moisture to finish programs.
“Early-sown crops are looking great but are competing with weed pressure because of such a dry start, and early May crops missed out on a knockdown herbicide.”
YP AG Kadina’s Chris Davey said early and dry-sown crops had vigour because the crops had added moisture on top, rather than relying on soil moisture.
“The crops that were sown after the rain have dried out and the early-sown crops were lucky to have it on top,” he said.
But only 35pc of Riverland growers have finished seeding programs and Elders Loxton’s Bryan Lynch said after the region received about seven millimetres of rainfall this week, most growers will restart their programs.
“Growers who have not started seeding are looking at making a start now and those who have started will slowly get more in the ground,” he said.
“Early crops are still a concern because there is not enough moisture to sustain it for much longer and the patchy germination is a worry.”
The lower Eyre Peninsula is also wrapping up seeding programs and Carr’s Seeds agronomist Denis Pedler, Cummins, said near perfect conditions in the past couple of weeks had helped growers to finish seeding on time.
“Despite seeding into a drying soil profile, farmers were pleased to be uninterrupted by weather and almost all growers have finished,” he said.
New tool aids crops in dry start
The 2018 seeding has been completed on time and in better than expected conditions for Wongyarra graingrower Russell Zwar, after he finished his entire program by mid-May.
Cropping 1200 hectares of faba beans, wheat, canola, barley, oats and hay, Mr Zwar began his program on April 15 and he said “so far everything has gone to plan this season”.
After receiving about 30 millimetres of rain from April to May, he said the additional 10mm of rainfall that arrived this week gave emerging crops a much-needed growth boost.
“We sowed canola first and we had 15mm before we started but after a such a dry summer the soil moisture disappeared quickly,” Mr Zwar said.
“Last year, for the first time, we reaped cereal crops with a stripper front to help with soil moisture conservation and after a dry summer it helped to retain what little moisture we had and it gave the crops a good start before rain came.”
Mr Zwar had only one hold up during seeding after the sudden burst of heat in April slowed down the sowing of his canola.
He said three-quarters of the program was sown but he stopped and waited for the cooler weather to arrive.
“The canola has been in the ground for more than a month and, although it has emerged, its growth has been slow. The last crop we sowed has taken two weeks to emerge,” he said.
But Mr Zwar is confident about the season ahead and remains hopeful for substantial winter rainfall.
Fonterra announces $5.50-$6.20 closing range
Fonterra Australia has announced a forecast closing farmgate milk price for the 2018/19 season in the range of $5.50 to $6.20 per kilogram of milk solids.
This compares with this season’s current forecast close of $5.62-$5.70/kg MS.
Fonterra’s current average weighted price is $5.62/kg MS.
Farmers are also receiving an additional 40 cents/kg MS bonus, paid so Fonterra could fulfil the benchmark milk price agreement for the 2015/16 season.
This takes the current average weight price being received by farmers to $6.02/kg MS.
Fonterra said the 2018/19 closing range was based on market indications that showed a continued positive global supply and demand picture.
Demand was expected to remain strong – especially from China and for butter and anhydrous milk fat – and the global dairy market’s current prices were expected to continue throughout the new season.
Last year on May 11 Fonterra announced a forecast closing farmgate milk price of $5.30-$5.70/kg MS.
It revised that up to $5.50-$5.80/kg MS on July 28 before revising it down to $5.62-$5.70 on December 13.
Fonterra Australia managing director René Dedoncker said Fonterra remains committed to paying its farmers a price that is market-based, competitive, and sustainable.
“We are keeping to our promise to provide farmers with clear market-based signals in advance of the new season to allow them budget and plan,” he said.
Mr Dedoncker said the company would announce its opening price in coming weeks.
Australian Consolidated Milk announced an opening price of $5.90/kg MS earlier this month.
Wheat market surges to life
THE AUSTRALIAN wheat market has been focusing on the red-hot domestic market, but it is not the only factor driving prices higher.
Over the past week the world wheat market has surged to life, with US futures soaring to three year highs this week.
The July 2018 Chicago Board of Trade contract topped US550 cents a bushel this week, while all 2019 contracts are now in excess of US600c/bu.
It marks a sustained rally from January 18 this year when prices were at US452c/bu.
The price rally is being led by concern about the global crop, with worries about the US, the Black Sea region and Australia front of mind.
Malcolm Bartholomaeus, Bartholomaeus Consulting, said it was a different environment to last year when there were half-hearted May rallies in wheat values, which quickly dissipated, on the back of US concerns.
This year the price rally was initiated by the US hard red winter wheat drought, but has been backed up by concerns about the early season in Canada, parts of the EU, parts of Russia and Ukraine, and Australia Mr Bartholomaeus said.
He said Russia, in particular, would be critical to world pricing.
Tobin Gorey, Commonwealth Bank commodity analyst, put out a paper this week in which he raised the possibility of a ‘turf war’ emerging where all major grain commodities see price rises as users compete for hectares.
He said the last time there had been a situation where there had been serious demand for hectares was in 2013.
Since then, global grain stocks have been at extremely comfortable levels, with record stocks to use ratios in play.
At present, the market is closely watching the US hard red winter crop and southern Russia / Ukraine, both of which are suffering drier than average conditions.
Chris Heinjus, of South Australian-based agribusiness Rural Directions, said it was a complicated market.
“There are concerns about weather both globally and domestically, obviously the key is picking what happens next.”
Mr Heinjus said it was too early to write off the Australian crop, but did also caution it was easy to see the national wheat crop slipping below 20 million tonnes.
“Given the late start it would not take much to go wrong to push tonnage south, however the Aussie market does not often react until August / September to the threat of yield loss.”
Mr Heinjus said the grinding drought in northern Australia was now not just an old crop story.
“The drawing of grain stocks to the Darling Downs and northern NSW is now flowing through to new crop, we are seeing pricing along mainline grain terminals reflecting this.”
“Pricing for new crop is already reflecting a potential east coast grain deficit, but we get a couple of good rains and that quickly disappears.”
Mr Heinjus said while there was scope for further price rises, potentially in a hurry, equally demand would be rationed if the values got too high.
“The key caution is that no one is bigger than market – it will find its own base,” he said.
Cotton prices rise sees pleasant problem for summer croppers
SUMMER croppers will be hoping extra hard they get the opportunity to plant in 2018-19 with both sorghum and cotton prices pushing to multi-year highs.
Sorghum values have been in the headlines recently, briefly reaching $400 a tonne for old crop, but this week it is cotton’s turn in the spotlight.
Cotton futures on the New York Stock Exchange reached four year highs this week, with the market going limit up for all 2018 contracts on Monday.
This means all 2018 cotton futures contracts are in excess of US90 cents a pound, price levels last seen in 2014.
Hot weather in the critical cotton producing region of Texas in the US is the major driver.
“Dryland cotton crops in the Texas panhandle region account for 12-13 per cent of the total US cotton crop,” said Commonwealth Bank commodity analyst Tobin Gorey.
“Temperatures have reached 100 fahrenheit (37.8c) in that region in the past week and it is still not officially summer,” Mr Gorey said.
“The hot weather, combined with a lack of moisture, means dryland crops are really struggling.”
“There was some rain about a week ago, but that was immediately followed by more well above average heat that meant plants did not get the chance to really use the moisture.”
And in bad news for growers in that region, Mr Gorey said weather forecasts have evolved to suggest most of the next 7‑10 days will be similar.
Along with the Texas concerns, there are worries about the south-eastern US cotton crop, in states such as Georgia, due to heavy rain from Tropical Storm Alberto.
China’s Xinjiang province also continues to experience cool weather that is hampering crop development which is also supportive of prices.
Mr Gorey said the good values on offer for two of Australia’s major summer crops were positive for Queensland and northern NSW growers, but said access to water would be the critical factor.
“The prices are one thing, having access to the water, whether through irrigation or rainfall, to take advantage of them is another thing.”
He said the competition for hectares between sorghum and cotton would be fascinating.
“I’ve written about the ‘Turf War’ starting to heat up where various commodities rise in price as end users look to shore up their supply, and this will be a classic example in the Aussie summer cropping zone, price will play a role in determining how much of each crop is planted.”
Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission – Community Consultation in South Australia
The Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission (The Commission) was established by the Governor of South Australia on 23 January 2018, in response to allegations of illegal taking of water, made in July 2017.
Specifically, the Commission is examining:
- Whether appropriate enforcement proceedings have been taken in relation to any instances of alleged or found illegal take of water, and whether the compliance and enforcement powers in the Water Act are adequate.
- Whether water resource plans required to be prepared under the Basin Plan will be compliant with the Basin Plan and accredited by 1 July 2019.
- Whether the Basin Plan in its current or any amended form is likely to achieve the objects, purposes and desired outcomes of the Water Act and Basin Plan.
- Whether the Basin Plan is likely to achieve the “enhanced environmental objectives” and the recovery of 450GL of water through efficiency measures.
- Whether water purchased for environmental use has been, or will be, adequately protected from consumptive use.
In addition to its community consultations, the Commission is seeking submissions from any persons or organisations concerning these issues. Submissions can be lodged online at www.mdbrc.sa.gov.au/submissions.
Waterfind recognise that the integrity of the Murray-Darling Basin water markets is important to its clients. Waterfind has made a submission to the Commission, which we will publish on our website within the next week.
In the meantime, if you would like a copy of the submission, or you would like to discuss any of the aspects covered in the Royal Commission, please contact Stuart Peevor, Director – Market Regulation, Government and Conveyance on 1800 890 285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flood-hit sugarcane farmers brace for huge losses as prices slump
Cane growers around Ingham are struggling under the dual burden of plummeting sugar prices and the ongoing impact of the disastrous March floods.
Two separate flood peaks hit the Herbert River sugar cane district, ripping up thousands of hectares of farmland and causing $15 million in local infrastructure damage alone.
At the same time, a global glut exacerbated by sugar subsidies paid by the Pakistan and Indian governments, led to sugar prices crashing.
At a current 2018 price of around $380 per tonne, worldwide sugar prices are below the cost of production.
Canegrowers Herbert River chair and local grower, Michael Pisano, said figures he had seen equated to a loss of half a million tonnes of cane, following a near-record crop last year.
“That coupled with the lower sugar price means there’s going to be a lot less money available to recover from last season,” he said.
“Smaller plantings, larger fallows at the end of the year is what I’m hearing from a lot of growers.”
Mr Pisano said at least 1,300 hectares of cane land was a complete write-off, unable to be harvested this year.
“If we can finish the season in mid-November, hopefully we can recover the crop so 2019 will look better for us,” he said.
Wilmar Cane Supply Manager, Paul Giordani, said more time was needed before such large write-downs were made.
“Our preliminary crop estimate of 4.77 million tonnes of cane is around five per cent lower than our earlier expectation,” he said.
“These are early estimates and the final crop size will be largely dependent on what happens over the next six months.
“If we get in-season rain, the crop is likely to grow on like it did last year — if it’s too dry, the crop may stop growing and the tonnes will drop away.”
Mr Giordani said Wilmar expected a total crush of 16.22 million tonnes across its eight mills, with other regions making up for losses in the Herbert.
Herbert Cane Productivity Services has used the latest technology to assess the damage, much of which was not evident for several weeks after the floods receded.
Manager Lawrence di Bella said the use of satellite mapping combined with drone vision helped quantify the extent of the losses.
“We’ve now been able to acquire images after the flood event and we can now see major flood damage,” he said.
Following drone assessment, stalk weights and samples showed the damage was greater than anticipated in some parts of the lower Herbert, downstream of Ingham.
“The losses are definitely higher than we initially thought, on the cane yield especially,” Mr di Bella said.
Mr di Bella said the size of the loss surprised even experienced growers and would be the third worst in history for many growers, surpassing the 1977 flood in terms of devastation.
“Our town’s hurting … the impact on the farming and the business community is starting to take a toll in the region,” he said.
Hinchinbrook Shire mayor, Ramon Jayo, said the retail business sector was the first to feel the impact of the floods, with spending well down.
“Hopefully we will have a reprieve shortly when tourists start coming up from the south,” he said.
A recent postponement of the planned North Queensland Bio Energy plant due to financing issues had been another blow to the community, Cr Jayo said.
Ethanol and other renewable energy products were to be created by the $640 million facility, with the project employing 250 workers.
Cr Jayo said losing the opportunity to diversify the economy away from crystal sugar was a great disappointment.
“Unfortunately due to Federal Government policies, there’s a lack of certainty in the sphere for investors to invest in renewable energy based on agriculture.”
“We do agriculture well and we do know that agriculture is viable for things such as co-generation and renewable energy.
“There’s a lot of money out there for solar and other alternative energies such as wind, so what is the problem with agriculture?”
Pulse prices still on track despite drop
IN SPITE of the values for high value pulse crops such as chickpeas and lentils enduring price drops in the hundreds of dollars per tonne over the past nine months, the current money on offer is around average levels according to long term data.
And there is positive news for pulses used in stock feed rations, such as lupins and faba beans, with strong domestic demand pushing prices up.
A season opening report into the state of the pulse market put together by Pulse Australia and the Grains Industry Market Access Forum found that values for human consumption crops were in line with historical averages while stock feed crops are on track to have better prices than normal.
The worst impacted crop in terms of pricing is likely to be lentils.
“There is a significant stockpile of lentils around the globe and we would expect decile 2-3 (lowest 20-30 per cent) prices for the season ahead,” said Pulse Australia chief executive Nick Goddard.”
He said the news was less bearish on the chickpea front.
“We would expect chickpeas to sit around decile 5-6 pricing, which given the doom and gloom surrounding Indian tariffs is not a bad result.”
However, there are still large stocks of unsold old crop chickpeas in Australia according to the report, which said there were an estimated 200,000 tonnes of 2017-18 chickpeas unsold, representing a stocks to use level of 21pc, over double the typical figure of around 10pc.
In spite of these bearish factors the report said there would still be good global demand for pulses.
Making up for India’s imposition of tariffs is an upswing in demand from China while Pakistan remains in short supply of pulses and will require imports to meet demand.
Also a positive for the pulse industry is the likelihood of a smaller ‘kharif’ (summer crop) pulse harvest in India, with information from the Global Pulse Confederation event in Colombo in May suggesting there could be up to a 1.3 million tonne year on year drop in production.
One of the likely positive news stories in the pulse sector over the coming season is expected to be faba beans.
After a sustained period in the pricing doldrums, especially compared to lentils and chickpeas, domestic faba bean values are positive, driven by demand for high protein feed from northern NSW and Queensland.
It is the domestic market driving the faba bean price as demand from Egypt, by far Australia’s biggest buyer of fabas, is flat.
Lupins are a similar story to fabas, with solid domestic demand underpinning pricing.
Mr Goddard said he expected Australian pulse plantings to be back this year due to both pricing and agronomic factors.
“It is very dry in many cropping areas which will impact plantings, while farmers are also looking to their rotations and giving pulses a bit of a spell after a pretty solid push over the past couple of years when prices were good.”
“It may have been time pulses came back in terms of the percentage they made up of national plantings, traditionally they have made up around 7pc of the plant, but over the past two years that figure was around 15pc, due to the chickpea boom.
“This year, I’d expect that would be back at around 5-7pc, due to both the dry and rotational reasons,” Mr Goddard said.
He said farmers had good options to rotate out of pulses.
“It is a good time to lower pulse plantings a little given feed barley prices are so good and wheat is also improving in terms of values.”
Winemakers head for higher ground as temperature increases force vignerons to rethink future
Hotter and drier summers are forcing a scramble to higher altitudes in one of the country’s most recognised cool-climate wine regions.
With little rain and increasing average temperatures, winemakers in central-west New South Wales are having to change the grape varieties they grow, while the grape harvest is occurring several weeks earlier than it used to.
As a result, those wanting to continue growing traditional cool-climate style grapes for the likes of Sauvignon Blanc are having to move to higher altitudes.
President of the Orange Region Vignerons’ Association and owner of See Saw wines, Justin Jarrett, believes winemakers have had no choice but to change the way they operate over the years.
“Nature doesn’t let you have a committee meeting about whether it’s getting warmer, it just is,” Mr Jarrett said.
“Our harvest is earlier and the amount of time the harvest takes is shorter as the grapes ripen earlier. You have to have more capacity to take fruit in and to harvest quickly.”
“Orange’s great advantage with global warming is being able to move up places like Mount Canobolas to maintain a certain style of grapes that needs to be grown in cooler sites,” Mr Jarrett said.
While traditional wine styles like Pinot Gris, Rose, Chardonnay and particularly Pinot Noir are proving increasingly popular, winemakers in Orange are noticing less demand for the type of varieties that thrive in warmer conditions.
But with changes in the climate, grapes for wines like Tempranillo and Sangiovese are being considered for planting as part of a 20-year strategy.
“A two-degree [Celsius] increase in temperature means those wanting to continue with a similar style of wine they’re producing now are going to have to move 200 metres higher,” Mr Jarrett said.
The drought has led to a 16 per cent drop in grape harvest in the Orange region this year.
But of the 6,400 tonnes picked, winemakers are describing the quality of grapes as red hot, and consumers should notice the quality of wine from Orange increase later next year.
Wine harvest comes early
At Mudgee, grape yields are down this year by between 20 and 40 per cent because of the lack of rain and very high summer and autumn temperatures.
Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard chief winemaker Jacob Stein has noticed how much change there has been to the climate for several years.
“Temperatures in Mudgee were about four degrees [Celsius] above average over summer, and the grape harvest has had to be brought forward by as much as four weeks.”
“Warming temperatures provoke quick ripening, and cabernet grapes we usually pick in April, we had to pick in early March,” Mr Stein said.
“We have been going through one of the driest periods ever, but we’ve planned by pulling out varieties that can’t cope with the heat and planting other varieties that do better in warmer climates.
As an experiment, Mr Stein has planted a hectare of Montepulciano grapes.
“It’s Italy’s second-most popular wine variety-grape planted, but it’s not widely known in Australia.”
“We’ll start looking at more European varieties, like French, Italian and Spanish-style wines.”
European-style wines more popular
Nearby at Rylstone, Richard de Beaurepaire runs a French-style winery, using the warming climate to produce higher quality wines which are becoming increasingly popular in Australia.
He established his vineyard 20 years ago and the hotter summers and colder winters since then have worked to his favour.
“Our focus is on varieties which you’ll find in Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux, and as one of the rare places in Australia on alkaline soil, the likes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay pay homage to France.”
“We need conditions that are as near as possible to the French-style,” Mr de Beaureparie said.
It is not just hotter summers but also colder winters that Mr de Beaurepaire is having to battle with these days.
“It’s not unusual to have the temperature drop to –12 [Celsius] in Rylstone in winter, and as a cool-climate region with temperatures similar to Tasmania, the variation between the day temperature and night temperature is critical to the creation of skin thickness and style of the grapes.”
Agribusinesses pledge to lift their game on gender diversity
Syngenta, Rural Bank and the Consolidated Pastoral Company are among a handful of leading agribusinesses set to publicly pledge their commitment to greater gender diversity this week.
The National Farmers Federation will officially launch their Diversity in Agricultural Leadership Program (DiALP) with a lunch event in Canberra on Thursday.
The program will see eleven agribusiness and advocacy groups, as well as the Federal Department of Agriculture, pledge to do more to encourage a larger number of women into their workforces and leadership roles.
Among those delivering a pledge will be crop technology multinational, Monsanto.
Women already hold 50 per cent of leadership positions within Monsanto – a figure that HR lead for Monsanto ANZ and Asia, Julia Bailey, said the company was very proud of.
Ms Bailey said Monsanto had been working on improving gender diversity for about a decade.
“We have fifty percent women broadly across the whole organisation and there is also no gender pay gap,” she said.
Ms Bailey said the company had taken some important steps in order to achieve these milestones.
This included creating self-awareness among leaders about unconscious bias towards people in the workplace, so that assumptions weren’t made about abilities.
Monsanto have also embraced a policy to attach salaries to positions, rather than leaving staff to negotiate packages when they apply for jobs. This had helped close the gender pay gap, she said.
Flexible arrangements for working mothers were also vital and had become ingrained in company culture.
“I am personally heartened by the way we treat our returning mothers,” she said.
“Working from home, job share, part time employment – this is something that is available to everyone.”
The Australian Agricultural Company will also make a pledge with chief executive officer Hugh Killen noting the company employed many females throughout its operations but had progress to make at a leadership level.
“We feel strongly about ensuring equal opportunity for all individuals, across our entire business,” he said.
“Outstanding female leaders are continuously emerging throughout the agribusiness sector. AACo is proud to be a DiALP partner to provide emerging leaders with a platform for ongoing development and support.”
As the first female president of NFF, Fiona Simson said the pledges were all about creating meaningful change.
She said it was also an opportunity for companies like Monsanto to share their tips for change and best practice with other organisations.
“When we first started looking at this issue there was a recognition that many of our participating companies are at different stages on their diversity journey,” she said.
“Some are very advanced and some are just beginning and we wanted to capture them all with a pledge to make meaningful change in this area.”
Ms Simson said the news last week that AACo had signed Anna Speer as the pastoral company’s first female chief operating officer, was further proof times were changing.
“These pledges will be on the public record,” she said.
“It is a small start. It is our first go and we want to make sure it works and continue the program from there.”
Former Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association CEO, Tracey Hayes, will deliver the keynote address at Thursday’s lunch, providing a frank account of her career and leadership journey.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Hon David Littleproud MP, will also share his vision for increased gender balance in the farm sector leadership.
The organisations making the pledge in 2018 are; the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, AgriFutures, Australian Agricultural Company, Consolidated Pastoral Company, Cotton Australia, NSW Farmers, Monsanto, Rural Bank, Rimfire Resources and Syngenta.
Thursday’s event will also launch NFF’s new mentoring program that will see eight aspiring female leaders paired with already-accomplished agriculture leaders.
Ag lags when it comes to women
Gender diversity has a long way to go in corporate Australia.
But even by our low standards, agribusiness has fallen behind.
National Farmers’ Federation analysis shows just 2.3 per cent of chief executive officers in Australian agribusinesses are female, compared with an average of 17pc across other industries.
Women comprise 13pc of all leadership roles in agribusiness – less than half the average of 28pc in non-ag related industries.
Women fare slightly better at the top of the corporate tree.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency found women had 38pc of management positions in the top 100 ASX companies, but just 10pc of executive roles.
Fairfax Agricultural Publishing will explore the important themes of gender diversity and sexual discrimination in agriculture in our series, Think Again, over the next three weeks.
Cotton-crazed hipsters shock croppers by paying up to $50 for fluffy floral bunches
Fields of fluffy, white cotton are being harvested by farmers in Australia’s eastern states and fetching prices of nearly $600 per bale, but it is cotton’s street value that has farmers talking.
In urban Sydney suburbs hipsters are paying up to $35 for a single branch of cotton, and $50 per bunch, in order to take home the trendy woolly blooms.
Paddock value versus street value
The cotton trend has also created a fuss in the Twittersphere with one observer crunching the numbers of a stem of cotton he came across for $22.
“Seen in a cafe today — if you look closely the price tag says $22 for the cotton plant!!”
Mark Dawson estimated in his tweet that if there were 10 cotton plants per metre and each plant sold for $22 that would equate to $22,000 per hectare.
However in reality growers have been averaging 12 cotton bales per hectare this season, which returns the much smaller figure of $6,500 per hectare.
Grower shocked by cotton craze
Southern New South Wales farmer Gavin Dal Broi has nearly finished picking his cotton crop and cannot believe how much people are paying for cotton branches at florists and markets.
“It’s extraordinary,” he said.
“It’s mind boggling that people are willing to pay for something that we have thousands of hectares of.
“I just shake my head at what they are willing to pay for it, but if there is someone willing to pay it, someone is going to sell it.”
One thing is for sure, Mr Dal Broi will not be showcasing cotton in a vase or mason jar in his home.
“There is plenty on the floor when I take my clothes off at night after being on the cotton picker all day,” he said.
“My wife is actually sick of it, so we don’t need any extra sitting inside the house on show.”
The novelty of cotton
Cut flower grower Sal Russo from Greater Sydney is among the many wholesalers sourcing cotton from NSW growers and said cotton attracts a lot of attention as it stands out to buyers amongst traditional blooms.
He said some people visiting the market see the cotton branches and reminisce about when they used to pick cotton.
“They’ll have their kids with them and explain to them how they used to pick it,” Mr Russo said.
School teachers are also flocking to the market to buy bunches of the plant to show their students.
“Most kids haven’t seen how cotton grows — it’s a real novelty at the moment, but how log it stays in vogue I don’t know.”
Florists picky when it comes to quality
Mr Russo said he is very particular about the features of cotton branches.
“We actually go out to the paddocks and pick it ourselves — there is an art to picking it.”
“We’ve tried to get people to pick it for us, but when it arrives it looks like it’s been through a mulcher.”
Mr Russo said florists are quite fussy when it comes to the plant.
“Growers like a lot of cotton on the bottom of the plant, and we like a lot of cotton at the top of the plant,” he said.
“When there are dry conditions the tops of the cotton plants are bare — that’s no good.”
Cotton survives the office elements
Mr Russo said cotton is a favourite with florists as it has a long shelf life.
“It doesn’t need water and can last up to five years,” Mr Russo said.
“Florists have started to use it in their corporate arrangements and they love it.
“If you put traditional flowers in that sort of office temperature they only last two or three days, whereas, cotton lasts irrespective of whether it’s hot or cold.
“Florists can rely of cotton not to fail if they put in an arrangement.”
Sources include: ABC Rural, The Land, The Weekly Times, Stock and Land, Stock Journal, Bloomberg, Farm Online, Queensland Country Life