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It’s cotton harvesttime at Brewarrina

The 2002 cotton harvest on Rumleigh. Photo Djanayah Jeffries

Cotton farmers are crossing their fingers that the weather will hold long enough for the harvest, likely to begin within days.

While this season has not delivered the enormous yields experienced last season, growers are still confident they will see a healthy return for this year’s crop.

Jason Morton is manager at Rumleigh Station near Brewarrina, and said he was hoping to start harvesting his crop by the end of the week.

Rumleigh is three kilometres east of Bre on the Coolabah Road, part of the P and J Harris cotton enterprise, and Jason has been manager there for the past three years.

“I was with the shire council before that and have landed on my feet pretty well here at Rumleigh,” he said.

Jason said now that the hard work of growing the crop had been completed, and that all he needed to wrap up a successful season was good weather and the equipment to see out the harvest.

“It wasn’t as good a summer season as the year before when we had better rainfall, but it has still been a good season,” Jason said.

“We’re hoping for 14 plus bales per hectare on average, but we really won’t know exactly what the yield will be until we get in there.

“At Rumleigh we have 720 hectares under crop and we’re hoping to start the harvest by the end of the week, with about eight employees on the job when we’re in full swing.

“The harvest takes us about a week if the weather is good and the equipment doesn’t break down, and so far everything looks to be going alright.

“Once we pick the cotton, it’s wrapped in bales and taken by truck to the Clyde gin in Bourke, and from there it’s taken to wherever it’s being marketed - and then we start looking ahead to next year,” he said.

The Barwon-Darling region is an important part of Australia’s cotton industry and like Jason, operators and managers are now busy not just with the harvest but securing the workforce to pick it.

Australia grows more than half a million hectares of cotton, with gins producing up to four million bales each year.

Cotton Australia said the cotton industry created more than 12,000 jobs every year, with 90% of the crops coming from family-owned farms.

Depending on the season and the cotton crop, cotton gins can run at full capacity for between three to six months.


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