The cotton industry has been one of the great success stories of Australian agriculture this century and Wee Waa proudly stands out as the place where it all began. Wee Waa's claim as being the "Cotton Capital" of Austra lia is rooted firmly in historical fact. Indeed, the story of cotton in the Wee Waa district extends to an earlier time than most people imagine. Cotton was first grown in Wee Waa in 1922 on the property known as "Rosevale'. Mr J. Treloar cultivated about 10 hectares of cotton on a dry land basis and despite only 62 mm of rain in the growing season, the crop ripened and nine bales (wool bales) of lint were picked by hand and sent to Newcastle of spinning. The cotton sold for only 5 1/2d. (about six cents) per pound (about half a kilo) - a lower price than had been received for Queensland cotton in 1871 - but the crop aroused considerable interest in the Valley. Unfortunately, the following year saw "Rosevale" cotton suffer from adverse seasonal conditions and insect pest problems which reduced the yield to 11 bales from 12 hectares. The lack of success in the 1920's saw cotton fade from the Namoi Valley scene until the late 1950's. Irrigation farming in the Namoi Valley was made possible with the completion of Keepit Dam on the Namoi River in 1960. Work on the question as to what type of irrigation farming would be suitable in the Valley had begun two years earlier, in 1958, when the NSW Department of Agriculture established an experiment farm at Myall Vale between Narrabri and Wee Waa.
Field trials revealed cotton could be the most profitable crop to farmers. One of the scientists working on the trials was Mr Nick Derera, a Hungarian plant breeder formerly involved in cotton research in Hungary. Mr Derera was enthusiastic about the possibilities of the Namoi Valley. After corresponding with Mr Derera, Mr Paul Kahl and Mr Frank Hadley, two Californian cotton growers, came to Australia to assess the potential for cotton growing. They liked what they saw and subsequently purchased land at 'Glencoe' about five kilometres north-west of Wee Waa. In 1962, the two pioneers harvested 26 hectares of cotton which yielded an average of 3.7 bales to the hectare. That crop, valued at $19,000, was the forerunner of a new agricultural industry which is now measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.
In 1962, Wee Waa had a population of 1075. since then Wee Waa's population has doubled. The 'cotton boom' spurred development in many fields - housing, engineering, retail sales, public works, schools and so on.
Wee Waa is truly a 'cotton town' and cotton has fuelled the prosperity of this diverse and dynamic community. "from the Wee Waa News"
The introduction of cotton into the Lower Namoi Valley spurred Wee Waa into an enduring period of growth. Today development within the industry remains ongoing in terms of its technical and environmental advancement. Progression of the industry has been enabled by extensive research and trials undertaken in the area. As a tradeable commodity cotton has become an industry of major international significance.
The estimates for the 2004/2005 season in the Lower Namoi Valley are that growers will dedicate some 36,000 hectares to irrigated cropping. Irrigated crops yielded approximately 8 bales per hectare. Dry land cotton has not been grown in the Lower Namoi region in the past 5 years due to drought. Cotton production in the Wee Waa district generates approximately $140 million for the Australian economy, representing 34 million of the state's total production.
Further land improvement, a continuance of good trading values and optimal water allocations should see future seasons equal or better these estimates.
More information on the Cotton Industry can be found at the following links