Fields of fluffy, white cotton are being harvested by farmers in Australia’s eastern states and fetching prices of nearly $600 per bale, but it is cotton’s street value that has farmers talking.
In urban Sydney suburbs hipsters are paying up to $35 for a single branch of cotton, and $50 per bunch, in order to take home the trendy woolly blooms.
Paddock value versus street value
The cotton trend has also created a fuss in the Twittersphere with one observer crunching the numbers of a stem of cotton he came across for $22.
Mark Dawson estimated in his tweet that if there were 10 cotton plants per metre and each plant sold for $22 that would equate to $22,000 per hectare.
However in reality growers have been averaging 12 cotton bales per hectare this season, which returns the much smaller figure of $6,500 per hectare.
Grower shocked by cotton craze
Southern New South Wales farmer Gavin Dal Broi has nearly finished picking his cotton crop and cannot believe how much people are paying for cotton branches at florists and markets.
“It’s extraordinary,” he said.
“It’s mind boggling that people are willing to pay for something that we have thousands of hectares of.
One thing is for sure, Mr Dal Broi will not be showcasing cotton in a vase or mason jar in his home.
“There is plenty on the floor when I take my clothes off at night after being on the cotton picker all day,” he said.
“My wife is actually sick of it, so we don’t need any extra sitting inside the house on show.”
The novelty of cotton
Cut flower grower Sal Russo from Greater Sydney is among the many wholesalers sourcing cotton from NSW growers and said cotton attracts a lot of attention as it stands out to buyers amongst traditional blooms.
He said some people visiting the market see the cotton branches and reminisce about when they used to pick cotton.
“They’ll have their kids with them and explain to them how they used to pick it,” Mr Russo said.
School teachers are also flocking to the market to buy bunches of the plant to show their students.
Florists picky when it comes to quality
Mr Russo said he is very particular about the features of cotton branches.
“We’ve tried to get people to pick it for us, but when it arrives it looks like it’s been through a mulcher.”
Mr Russo said florists are quite fussy when it comes to the plant.
“Growers like a lot of cotton on the bottom of the plant, and we like a lot of cotton at the top of the plant,” he said.
“When there are dry conditions the tops of the cotton plants are bare — that’s no good.”
Cotton survives the office elements
Mr Russo said cotton is a favourite with florists as it has a long shelf life.
“Florists have started to use it in their corporate arrangements and they love it.
“If you put traditional flowers in that sort of office temperature they only last two or three days, whereas, cotton lasts irrespective of whether it’s hot or cold.
“Florists can rely of cotton not to fail if they put in an arrangement.”