REPORT: Cotton industry's astounding contribution to regions
AN EYE-opening report has revealed just how important the cotton industry is to regional Queensland.
The 'Cotton with a Conscience' report found that not only did the Australian cotton industry directly employ 12,500 people mostly on family farms in rural areas, it contributed on average $1.8 billion a year to the national economy and was a major social contributor to regional communities.
The report also highlighted how important the industry is to regional women, who are well-represented in jobs like ginning, agronomy, research and marketing.
The proportion of women working in key industry organisations was 60 per cent.
The report found cotton farmers made the vast majority of their business expenses (93%) in rural towns and regional centres, and 71% made regular donations to local charities and programs.
"As anyone who's lived in a rural town knows, so much of their vibrancy comes from the people who volunteer their time and resources to make things happen," Cotton Australia spokeswoman Brooke Summers said.
"While this report really just scratches the surface, it is full of examples of how our farmers and industry groups are contributing to the social fabric of rural communities across NSW and Queensland."
The Cotton with a Conscience report included 25 case study examples of how the cotton industry was giving back, from donating cotton towels to WIRES during the recent bushfires and releasing more than 200,000 baby fish into rivers, to tackling issues like Aboriginal employment and rural mental health. "For many years, the Australian cotton industry has worked hard to assess and report our environmental sustainability, but on the social side, there's a great untold story," Ms Summers said. "We've discovered our stakeholders are equally interested in the social contributions of our industry, particularly as there are some big challenges globally around cotton, including child labour and the exploitation of women in some countries. "It's important that our supply chain partners, and consumers of Australian cotton know our domestic industry treats its workers fairly, provides safe workplaces and opportunities, and is doing its best to contribute in a positive way to cotton communities. "We haven't been very good at telling the stories of cotton's social contributions, even though our farmers, local Cotton Grower Associations and industry groups have been doing great things for decades."