It is January, which means we can all turn our calendars over and leave the turbulence of 2020 behind us.
We all know that 2020 was a particularly tough one for us all, with drought and COVID-19 posing challenges few could have anticipated.
But I do not want to dwell on the past. I want to look forward to 2021 and address why I am so optimistic that the coming year will be a good one for the Australian cotton industry.
Firstly, rain has fallen in many cotton growing valleys in recent months, which means our crop forecast for this season has increased. I am delighted that we estimate at least a 2.2-million bale cotton crop this year, which, despite remaining below the long-term average, is much improved on last season's crop.
I hope this more than comes to fruition and that our rural communities and growers can continue getting back on their feet after a tough few years of drought and no crops.
Secondly, we should be entering a year of relative political stability without looming elections and our industry being used as a political pawn, as was the case in recent years. Unless Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls an early federal election this year, we anticipate being able to advocate to governments on our achievements and our work to enhance our industry, not as a form of defence from political attacks, but as a proactive, positive way to enhance our industry.
Of course, there will still be the few that will use us as a target for their political rhetoric, but I have confidence the calming of the election cycle will pave the way for meaningful political conversations that are respectful and constructive.
Thirdly, as we adjust to living in a COVID-safe world, we should see a semblance of normal life returning. I hope that in 2021 we will be able to boost our public engagement about our industry and attend events to share the Australian cotton story with the broader community.
The prospect of agricultural shows returning is growing, which means we will once again be able to engage with the community at these valuable events and share with them information about Australian cotton and answer their questions.
I hope that in 2021 we will be able to boost our public engagement.
Fourthly, 2021 will be a time for Cotton Australia and our industry to build upon the valuable groundwork we have undertaken this year to further strengthen our industry. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to re-prioritise our work to suit the times, the lockdown gave our Cotton Australia team the opportunity to develop new projects, resources and materials to enhance our work as the cotton industry's advocacy group.
I am increasingly confident 2021 will be the year we get to use those new resources, projects and programs to full effect - be it our new virtual reality film or the completely updated and enhanced education kit. I am confident these resources, among others, will help boost our industry's reputation and grow trust in Australian cotton.
Fifthly, our industry has so much positive work underway on-farm. From the ongoing development and finalisation of our sustainability targets (and seeing on-farm practices enhanced to achieve those goals) to the continued growth of our best practices program myBMP, I know our growers will rise to the challenge and push themselves further to ensure our industry strengthens and grows now and into the future.
Also, in 2021 we will be looking north above the Tropic of Capricorn, where genuine commercial interest in cotton in northern Australia continues to grow. With the recent announcement of plans for a grower-owned cotton gin in the Northern Territory, the establishment of an industry up there is one step closer.
While 2020 was a shocker for many, as we now recover from the silly season and sharpen our focus on the year ahead, we have so much to be optimistic about. My optimism is not misguided or Pollyanna-ish, because I know that bouncing back from adversity is what our industry does best.
I have seen it many times through my years of experience in Australian cotton, and I have no reason to believe this time will be any different. I strongly encourage all of us - growers and industry personnel alike - to unite behind each other in the spirit of collegiality we know so well. If we do this, the sky's the limit for what we can achieve together.