WITH Australia in the grip of severe drought a small federal political party is proposing legislation to ban cotton exports – claiming the trade is nothing more than exporting water.
The proposal has been ridiculed by the industry and government with Cotton Australia calling it an outrageous assault on the industry.
But the industry has little to fear. Centre Alliance has just two seats in the 76-seat Senate and one in the 150-seat House of Parliament.
Some 1,000 farmers, mainly in Queensland and New South Wales, grow cotton and 90 per cent is exported in a trade worth A$2.1 billion (£1.16 billion).
Australia produces nine per cent of the world’s raw cotton, with the main buyers China, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Pakistan and Italy.
Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay says an export ban would end the industry and cost its 10,000 workers their jobs.
“This is not only an attack on the cotton industry, but a reckless attack on rural communities and hardworking Australian farmers,” Kay says.
“These farmers are enduring one of the toughest droughts in our nation’s history.
“Let’s call this announcement for what it is: a dangerous political stunt.”
Kay says to ban the export of cotton based on its water use would set a dangerous precedent for the fate of other agricultural industries that use water.
“This idea that if the cotton industry was restricted, or banned, more water will be saved for the environment is ludicrous.
“Other summer crops, like corn and soybeans, use similar amounts of water per hectare. If cotton was to be banned in Australia, farmers would use their water to grow the next most profitable crop.”
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the Centre Alliance plan on cotton exports is flawed on many fronts.
Farmers only get to use their water allocation in years of good rainfall. Littleproud says most are on zero general allocation for irrigation this year and very little cotton has been grown.
“Banning the export of any particular crop likely breaches our World Trade Organisation obligations,” he says.
“Banning farmers from selling cotton overseas and bringing wealth to Australia is a terrible idea.”