Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c
|20-22 May 2015
Warren Cotton Gin
Cotton is widely grown around the Warren area, especially along the Macquarie River. Most cotton is grown using irrigation water from the river. Some is grown relying on rainfall. If the amount of water allocated for irrigation is low then farmers have the option of planting cotton and relying on rainfall or growing another crop such as wheat, sorghum or chickpeas.
Cotton gins are an essential adjunct to cotton growing. There is a cotton gin at the edge of Warren and another two gins along the road between Warren and Nevertire. Externally gins look like any small to medium size industrial building with modules of harvested cotton laid out around the gin. Modules were developed in the 1970s specifically to handle cotton during transport from harvesting to the gin. Modules stored around the gin are organised so that cotton from individual growers is kept together and the grower can be identified.
Cotton modules come in two shapes (and colours). Modules produced by older harvesting machinery are rectangular, appreciably longer than they are high or wide (12 metres long, 2.4 metres wide and high, weighing 8.6 tonnes)and usually covered with blue plastic on top. The sides are uncovered and occasionally green plastic is used. The rectangular cotton module are rapidly being replaced by round modules with yellow plastic covering, which already widely used in many cotton growing areas. Sometimes the term 'bale' is used instead of round module.
Cotton is an annual crop planted in the spring in long rows. It grows into a bushy shrub about one metre high. After pollination by bees and other insects the flowers drop off and cotton bolls appear in their place. The cotton bolls split open revealing white fluffy cotton lint and cotton seeds. Harvesting removes the lint and cotton seed and compresses it into modules for immediate storage and transport to the gin. The`cotton plant is otherwise untouched.
Once cotton has been harvested the plant's roots are cut with special machinery and the upper part mulched for recycling. Some sources claim a winter crop, such as wheat, can be grown before the next cotton crop is planted; however, we were told that around Warren there is not enough time between consecutive cotton crops for a winter crop.
20-22 May 2015 - Warren Cotton, page 2
At the gin, modules are stored in the open in areas assigned to each farmer so each module's ownership can be tracked through the gin while the cotton lint is separated from cotton seed and trash. Lint is packaged in bales weighing 227 kilograms. The origin of the cotton can be traced back to specific farms.
Cotton modules around a gin awaiting processing have not necessarily been sold; growers have the option of retaining ownership of the cotton, paying the gin for processing, then selling the cotton on the open market. Cotton is sold into a world market competing against 75 other countries.
Cotton seed is exported to Japan (crushed and as cattle feed), Korea and China (crushed) and the USA (dairy feed) depending on price and the value of the Australian dollar. Cotton lint is sold (average price from 1991 to 2011 was $460 per bale but there is considerable volatility) to Asian customers who weave it into cloth.