Voice of Real Australia: Cotton, cannabis and Katherine

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We're staying in the NT again today and learning why farmers want Katherine to be the capital of cotton in the Northern Territory.

Out of five spots - Mataranka, Darwin and Kununurra, Edith and Katherine - the latter was the best spot for a cotton gin, according to an industry report.

Depending on who you talk to - it will be worth about $15 million a year when it is going for the local economy.

It will support more than 80 jobs but only in the 8-10 weeks peak of the harvest.

But best of all, it will help transform the Territory into the agricultural mother lode which everyone has been wanting for generations.

The northern food bowl, heard of that? Not sure if you need to add milk to your bowl of cotton, though.

It is pegged more as an export crop for cash, only cows can eat the high protein seeds which comes as a result of the "ginning" or the processing of the little tufts.

The big problem for cotton is it needs a local factory, sending it away to Queensland or NSW for processing makes it uneconomic.

So farmers want a gin built in Katherine, with its hefty $30m price tag.

Keen farmers attend a field day at Daly Waters in the NT where trial crops are being successfully grown on wet season rain alone.

Keen farmers attend a field day at Daly Waters in the NT where trial crops are being successfully grown on wet season rain alone.

A Singapore-based company has offered to pay a third, farmers another third, and the taxpayer has been asked for $10 million.

As the NT is just over a week away from an election, we will have to see how that plays out first before anyone spends public money on cotton.

The NT Government has re-invented a new meaning for broke.

Rice has been tried here before; yes, so has cotton too, but we are better, our scientists are better, our farmers are better.

There has been some success with black sesame seed trials in Katherine, cannabis - medicinal, industrial and illicit - all grow well here.

Katherine produces more mangoes than any other single spot in the nation. We need someone to come pick them.

To become the food bowl has been a very, very long work in progress.

Irrigation is the key, and people look on aghast at what has happened to the Murray-Darling system, so mooted crops like cotton have their opponents.

People down south say Australia has to make better use of the water where most of it falls, in the Top End. We wish it was that simple.

The rains falls in one specific time of the year, and the other eight months are blue skies and belting temperatures late in the dry season.

Peanuts used to do pretty well around Katherine.

Maybe it would be time to give them another try, everyone likes peanut butter.

This newsletter is written by Chris McLennan, the editor of the Katherine Times.

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