From humble beginnings as a tin-shed operation 50 years ago, Cotton Seed Distributors has become a world exporter of top cotton-seed genetics. It also underpins the viability of many Australian rural communities.

Story by Virginia Tapp   Photo Josh Smith

The first meeting of a company responsible for the meteoric rise of Australia’s third largest export industry seemed quite unremarkable at the time. It was a Wednesday night in 1967 and seven men had driven the well-worn path into Wee Waa from their nearby cotton farms in the Lower Namoi Valley of northern New South Wales. Rattling down unsealed roads and watching for roos in the headlights, they arrived at a nondescript church hall in a quiet street at the unusual hour of 9.30pm. 

The rustle of shuffling papers and scraping of boots and chair legs on floorboards filled the largely empty hall. Then, in low tones, as the rest of the town slept, they began to discuss the business of cotton seeds. And though no-one probably suspected it, history was made in the little church hall that night. The meeting closed after just 10 minutes of deliberation and with only one motion moved – the acceptance of nominations for 20 inaugural members of Cotton Seed Distributors (CSD).

Today, CSD has more than 500 members and 54 permanent full-time employees. Growing, processing, treating and distributing cotton seed is a huge business. From its headquarters at Shenstone, Wee Waa, the company supplies the world’s best cotton-seed genetics to more than 1450 cotton farms in Australia and exports to eight other cotton-growing nations. As the country’s sole provider of cotton seed, the organisation quietly underpins the viability of 152 rural communities across Queensland and New South Wales. The cotton industry directly employs 10,000 Australians in a good year and produces enough cotton annually to clothe 500 million people. With technology advancing by the day and a 40 percent increase in water efficiency during the past decade, there is no end in sight to the rapid pace of development that has been set through the past 50 years.

“We had no idea it would grow to where it is now,” says Frank Hadley, the inaugural chairman of CSD. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #113

Outback Magazine: June/July 2017