One serve per day for 30 million people, for a full year,is what ABS figures (released this week) tell us Australia’s rice growers produced in 2016-17.

ABS figures pointed to a year with more water availability and that meant production of annual crops, like cotton and rice, increased.

Steve Whan said “one of the reasons cotton and rice are important irrigated crops for Australia is that they are annual crops. This means that during times of drought, when water allocations are low,these crops are not planted.

“When they are grown they supply Australian and international markets, producing huge benefits for every Australian. Irrigated crops were a key part of the 20% increase in value of Australian crops in 2016-17, part of an agricultural industry that overall generated $60.8 billion for Australia.

“In addition to cotton and rice, key irrigated crops boosting our balance of payments and generating Australian jobs include sugar cane worth $1.6 billion, fruit and nuts worth $4.2 billion, vegetables worth $3.9 billion, grapes ($1.5b), along with the product of nurseries, cut flowers and turf ($1.5b).

“Milk production went down in 2016-17 but was still worth $3.7 billion to the nation – most of which wouldn’t be there without irrigation.

“The increase in production highlighted by the ABS data shows, in part, how irrigation responds to climate variability. Irrigation infrastructure enables water to be stored and used when needed for food production (and to supply environmental flows), but when inflows are low, irrigators have less water allocated.

“While good 2016-17 conditions meant irrigators could help ‘grow’ Australia’s export income, we can’t just assume that will continue. Irrigators’ two critical inputs are water availability, and the now unjustifiably high electricity prices,which push up the cost of pumping water and therefore the cost of production.

“High electricity costs are impeding the transition from a ‘mining boom’ to a ‘dining boom’ and that’s why irrigators have the dual focus on water and power. Irrigators are telling Government there must be a maximum price for electricity of 16 cents/kwh.

“Just imagine what affordable electricity combined with a good season could do for Australia’s bottom line, let alone employment opportunities in regional Australia.”

Media Contact: Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Tuesday 22 May 2018