Irrigation infrastructure is designed to help Australia keep growing food and fibre in a variable climate and, Australian Bureau of Statistics (gross value of irrigated production) figures for 2017-18 show, that is exactly the job it was doing .

ABS figures for 2017-18 show the proportion of Australia’s fruit and nuts (by value) produced by irrigators increased from 83.3% to 92.5%, while dairy went from 44% to 52.3%.

National Irrigators Council CEO, Steve Whan, said “Australia built irrigation systems so that in dry years we didn’t starve. In a year with less rainfall – but with water stored in dams – you will see an increase in the amount of irrigation water used to supplement crops.

“That happened in 2017-18, particularly in the Murray Darling Basin (Basin).  In 2016-17 Basin irrigators grew $7.2 billion worth of agricultural product, 29% of the Basin’s total production, in the drier 2017-18 year that went up to $8.6 billion worth or 36%.

“In 2017-18 Basin irrigators grew more than 70% of all Austalia’s grapes, 41% of fruit and nuts, 20% of our vegetables, 99% of rice and 82% of cotton – among other products .

“Overall, Australia’s irrigators produced 82.5% of our vegies, 92.5% of fruit and nuts, 92% of grapes, 92% of cotton, 100% of rice, 52.5% of dairy, 52% of sugar cane and reflecting drought conditions 14.4% of hay.  More than one quarter of Australia’s total agricultural production by value is grown by irrigators with a value to the country of $17.6 billion.

“ABS water use statistics show, as you would expect, the amount of irrigation water used increased in 2017-18.  Basin irrigators used 7,870GL, the drought made that some 30% less than the Sustainable Diversion Limit and combined with water returned to the environment more than 40% less than the pre Basin Plan use.

“Increased value of production comes on the back of massive water use efficiency improvements. 

“Unfortunately, the drought has got worse. If there is no water in dams then production drops – that means no income for farmers, higher prices for consumers and less jobs. The drought impact now comes earlier for farmers, consumers and communities because 1 in every 5 litres of previously available water entitlement has now been returned to the environment.

“Right now, it is a desperate situation for many farmers who have zero water allocation. The flow on impacts are being felt in country communities and by every consumer.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

Wednesday 21 August 2019