​​Media Release

Plan to ban cotton exports: no extra water for the river; kills jobs, ends farmer freedom, likely breach of WTO

4 February 2019

The Centre Alliance plan to ban farmers from exporting cotton is flawed on many fronts, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said today. 

"First, this idea will not deliver ANY extra water to the river," Minister Littleproud said. 

"Farmers have bought a certain amount of water and in a year of reasonable rainfall, they still get to use that water to grow something, whether it's rice or crops or cattle. If farmer Joe has 100 megalitres he normally uses to grow cotton and you make cotton unviable, he just uses that water to grow a different crop. Further, farmers only get to use their water in years of good rainfall. The Gwydir, Namoi and Macquarie districts near Menindee are all on zero general allocation for irrigation this year. 

"Very little cotton was grown this year. Cubbie grew around 1 per cent of its usual cotton crop. 

"Further, recent modelling for the Northern Basin Review showed an extra 70 gigalitres of water to the river in the northern Basin would deliver only 7 gigalitres to Menindee. The river system is not like a pipe which delivers every drop to the other end. 

"There are 1009 farmers in Australia currently growing cotton, and cotton export is a $2.1 billion industry employing 10,000 regional Australians in a good year. 

"Some 90 per cent of our cotton is grown for export, so this plan would end the industry. How will Centre Alliance replace these jobs in rural Australia? 

"Cotton is the highest value crop for farmers to grow in most of these areas. Effectively stopping farmers growing the most valuable crop just reduces farm viability and means less jobs. 

"The Government telling farm businesses what decisions to make ends farmer freedom. 

"Banning the export of any particular crop likely breaches our World Trade Organisation obligations. Australia is a nation of 25 million growing enough food for 75 million people - we need trade. 

"This idea might mean the media gets a headline but it won't help the Basin, the fish or the farmers one bit. 

"Banning farmers from selling cotton overseas and bringing wealth to Australia is a terrible idea."