Agri business takes off
Over the past decade a number of new industries have moved into the Shire. In the two years to June 2001 almost $40 million worth of development applications were approved by Council. Most notable of these were the $19 million Namoi cotton gin near Hillston and a $4.25 million bulk grain handling and storage facilities at Goolgowi.
Additional grain handling facilities valued at $860,000 were also approved for Hillston.
The Hillston cotton gin, now operated by the Australian Cotton Ginning Company as a result of a merger between Namoi Cotton and the Twynams pastoral company, employs 37 people during the five months ginning season. In 2001, approximately 108,000 220kg bales of cotton were produced at this high tech facility that operates 24 hours per day and welcomes visitors. As well as a number of local farmers diversifying into cotton, produce from the Hay area is also transported to the Hillston gin for processing. The gin uses state of the art computerised controls and has stringent occupational health and safety procedures.
The availability of irrigation saw the proliferation of significant citrus plantings. For example, Hillston Citrus has 64,000 valencia orange trees and with four other large local citrus orchards has enabled the Outback Juice Company to establish in Hillston.
Potato production from Rennie’s Produce is around 40,000 tons being produced off season to other potato growing areas. The property near Hillston grows the largest quantity of red soil based potatoes anywhere in Australia.An increase in the planting of grapes is also occurring in the Shire’s north and Barkworth Basano Olives has planted 175,000 olive trees along the Mid Western Highway, with plans for a further 75,000 trees.
Other major crops include corn, tomatoes, melons, irrigated grains and a relatively new plantings of cherries which will double in size to 600 hectares by 2005, requiring some 600 pickers when they are in full production. Efficiencies in dry land farming have also increased yields of grain crops, wool and beef production.