COTTON industry leaders have hit back at comments made by Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli, expressing disappointment that the industry is being made a scapegoat for recent job cuts in the rice industry.
Mr Piccoli was commenting on the recent announcement by SunRice that it would be cutting back staff at Leeton and Deniliquin and said “but anyone who says there is no impact on rice from cotton is in denial”.
The comments have not been received well by cotton growers and stakeholders.
Southern Cotton general manager Kate O’Callaghan, who is also the wife of a rice grower, was perplexed by the statement from Mr Piccoli.
"The reality is cotton has nothing to do with the recent management decisions at SunRice to reduce staff,” she said.
"Cotton is great for our region, and is returning hundreds of millions of dollars to the regional economy. It is grown on soil types, which are not ideal for rice.
“It's unfair to pit one against the other and I'm really not sure why (Adrian Piccoli) has made cotton the scapegoat.
“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan, low water allocations and the high price of temporary water is solely to blame for the reduction in irrigated crop plantings, including rice, not the decision to grow one crop or the other.”
Mr Piccoli was speaking on the job cuts after others had come out blaming the Basin Plan for the decision.
Southern Valley Cotton Growers Association president James Hill echoed Mrs O’Callaghan’s thoughts.
“Allocations are down, so it’s obviously up to the individual grower to determine what crops they want to grow,” he said.
“Many of the properties where rice is grown isn’t even suitable to plant cotton.”
While cotton may seem like the “popular” crop now, Mrs O’Callaghan said should drought return to the region it too would struggle.
“It's the low water allocations that have caused the reduction in rice production and why some growers have decided either not to grow as much this year or none at all,” she said.
"In an extremely low year of water allocations there won't be any cotton or rice or corn or soybeans or anything.
“Where will that leave the MIA?
"The dam is 52 per cent full now. The MIA needs a fair share of this water to be sustainable.”