New opportunities for agriculture in northern Australia

Media Release

WT223/2014

03 November 2014

Joint release with:

Barnaby Joyce

Minister for Agriculture

Terry Redman

WA Minister for Regional Development; Lands

John McVeigh

Qld Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Willem Westra van Holthe

NT Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries

Major opportunities for expanding northern Australia's irrigated agricultural industries—across Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland—have been identified in a new joint study by CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES).

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the Northern Australia Food & Fibre Supply Chains Study examines new opportunities and highlights a range of critical infrastructure and supply chain investments needed to realise northern Australia's potential.

“The Coalition has long-held that opening up northern Australia for development—especially farming, is key to maximising the emerging opportunities on our northern doorstep across south-east Asia,” Mr Truss said.

“This study was commissioned to help guide future investment decisions.”

Funding for the work was provided by the Australian, Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory governments, as well as the Pilbara Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committee and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said the report's findings feed into both the forthcoming Developing Northern Australia and Agricultural Competitiveness White Papers.

“The report will be a valuable resource to help Australia's agricultural industry identify medium and longer-term opportunities and to target future investment,” Mr Joyce said.

Western Australian Minister for Regional Development Terry Redman said the report examined Queensland's Flinders/Gilbert, Dawson and Darling Downs/Maranoa regions; Mataranka in the Northern Territory; and Western Australia's Ord and Pilbara regions.

“The study identified a range of local challenges but also major potential for growth across each of the six regions,” Mr Redman said.

Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh said the report highlighted the great opportunities for expanding irrigated agriculture in Australia's North.

“The report illustrates that under a realistic set of assumptions the value of new irrigated agriculture production across the six regions could be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion,” Mr McVeigh said.

“CSIRO and ABARES also identified that the configuration of the existing supply chain was a significant constraint in some locations with transport costs often a very high percentage of production costs.”

Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries Willem Westra van Holthe said the report provided valuable evidence that would support local planning.

“The CSIRO and ABARES work is very timely and will inform both local and national policy development,” Mr Westra van Holthe said.

“The report is frank about the issues that need to be addressed but also highlights significant potential for growth in northern Australian agriculture.”

The Northern Australia Food & Fibre Supply Chains Study Synthesis Report is available online at: www.regional.gov.au/regional/ona/.