The state government will invest almost $4 million to progress plans for the first cotton processing facility in the state’s north.
The state government will invest almost $4 million to progress plans for a cotton processing facility in the state’s north, funds expected to support the installation of electrical infrastructure and preliminary design works.
The cotton gin project, led by local investors Ord River District Co-operative, Kimberley Agricultural Investment and Aboriginal group MG Corporation, would see the construction of a $30 million facility in Kununurra to separate and clean the cotton fibre.
Currently, the product is transported more than 3,500 kilometres to Queensland for processing.
The facility would be the first major processing facility since early steps to develop the industry failed some 50 years ago and, once operational, is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs within the first decade and generate $1.19 billion in cotton lint exports.
Premier Mark McGowan, who travelled to the East Kimberley to make the announcement, said the $3.9 million investment would finance the installation of a high voltage power supply line and a network upgrade that would deliver renewable power from the Pac Hydro’s Lake Argyle generation system to the proposed site on Mulligans Lagoon Road.
The use of hydroelectricity with zero carbon emissions is expected to increase the competitiveness of the business in the global marketplace.
Without a locally-based processing facility, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the industry simply could not be sustainable.
Ms MacTiernan said the state government, growers and traditional owners were confident they could get a cotton gin off the ground in Kununurra - and that the funding was a major step forward.
“Commercial cotton trials demonstrate the Ord region can grow a high-quality, high yielding crop, which has given local growers confidence to push ahead with establishing a sustainable cotton industry including local processing," she said.
“We have seen fantastic collaboration between the East Kimberley groups involved in this project, including growers and traditional owners, working towards a common goal to bring transformational economic and social benefits to the region for generations to come.”
The progression of the proposal follows four years of successful cotton trials in the Ord River Irrigation Area using a new generation, pest-resistant Bollgard3 variety, with 1200 hectares grown last year alone.
Last year, a PwC study, commissioned by the NT Farmers Association, found Katherine to be the ideal location to build the first cotton gin in Australia’s north.
But WA-based industry representatives argued that, with cotton lint accounting for about half the weight of picked cotton, it was more viable to transport the lint from Kununurra to Darwin port and back-fill the trucks with raw cotton from Katherine.