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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Agriculture Update

When it comes to epitomising resilience, the men and women who make up Australia’s agricultural sector truly are the living and breathing definition of the word.

Over the past few years they have battled drought, destructive and devastating weather events and a worldwide pandemic, only to bounce back with a forecast
all-time high of $65.9 billion in production value this fiscal year alone.

Far North Queensland’s diverse food bowl has had a significant role to play in this achievement, and one can’t help but feel buoyed by the palpable anticipation of an industry on the verge of immense growth and economic opportunity. However, as John Wooden put it, “when opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare”.

Such words bring into stark focus the current realities surrounding Far North Queensland’s agricultural sector.

We have an industry primed for growth and expansion, a region renowned for rich soil, healthy rainfall and proficient farmers and producers, yet one huge obstacle stands in the way.

Water security.

The current lack of water infrastructure threatens to stunt the growth of agriculture in the region, and with the knock of economic opportunity imminent, the threat that we won’t be adequately prepared to answer the door looms large.

This issue has been covered extensively by my team and me in FNQ Ag Mag and is one I am determined to further highlight on any platform possible.

Councillor Manning and the Cairns Regional Council ought to be commended for their action in relation to The Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 Project, but when it comes to projects for our region’s thriving food bowl, the Atherton Tablelands, a clear and concise path forward is yet to be outlined.

The rapid expansion of high value crops has been instrumental in our region’s agriculture being catapulted to great heights. Ensuring these operators have the capability to expand is integral to Far North Queensland’s future success.

The State Government announced it would undertake a $3 million Regional Water Assessment in the Tablelands region, however the revelation that the assessment’s completion date was sometime between June and December 2023 quashed the hopes of producers who were desperate for rapid action.

With the landmark study, Export 2030 – Fresh Food Fast, highlighting the potential of our region to double high-value food exports through Cairns Airport within a decade, the issue of water security on the Tablelands should bother us all.

It is imperative that Far North Queensland bands together to support our growers and producers in their plight to see real action on water infrastructure.

The potential flow-on effects to other industries and our region as a whole are immense, and as we continue to rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic, securing stability and economic potential at a hyper-localised level has never been more important.

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