TOP 5 TOPICS
Five national news stories about the current issues facing people in regional communities
A PUSH to improve the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System in the Middle East will be backed by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Joyce said reaching an agreement regarding ESCAS would be critical to rekindling free trade discussions between Australia and the Gulf States.
“I don’t want to say that we’re going to get rid of ESCAS, but we have to try and work out whether we can get something to work in a form equivalent to ESCAS, but not so that it intrudes on another nation’s sovereignty,” he said.
He said there were major opportunities for Australian sheep producers, in particular, in terms of increased live exports if supply chain assurances could be agreed on by both parties.
Mr Joyce said the Gulf States recognised the quality of Australian products as well as the potential reliability of our country as a trading partner.
The Middle East has for decades been a major market for Australian produce, especially wheat and sheep.
Iraq and Yemen are among the top 10 buyers of Australian wheat, each accounting for about 7% of exports.
CYCLONE SPARES MAJORITY
BANANA growers say initial reports indicate there have been minimal crop losses on an industry-wide basis from Tropical Cyclone Ita but some isolated cases of heavier losses.
In a statement issued on Sunday night, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council said it was continuing its assessment of crop damage after Tropical Cyclone Ita passed through the major banana growing regions of Innisfail and Tully.
ABGC chairman Doug Phillips said early reports indicated on an industry-wide basis there had been crop losses of about 5% across the north Queensland growing regions. However, there had been reports of more serious crop losses on some banana farms.
“The ABGC will continue to work with growers to help them assess any damage and any assistance measures that may be required.”
Mr Phillips said it had been fortunate that the cyclone had weakened from a Category 4 system after making landfall, downgrading to a Category 1 by the time it affected the Atherton Tablelands, Innisfail, Tully and Kennedy growing regions. The north Queensland growing regions produce about 95% of Australia’s bananas, with the industry’s annual production value at $500 million.
A single meter reading costs irrigators $60 a read ...
MEMBER FOR BURDEKIN ROSEMARY MENKENS
CHANCE TO CUT COSTS
READING their own water meters could deliver irrigators a $120 a year saving.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said new changes would apply to Queensland irrigators within “metered entitlement areas” who take water directly from a bore or watercourse.
“We are providing an opportunity to irrigators to save money by reading their own water meters,” Mr Cripps said.
Member for Burdekin Rosemary Menkens said she welcomed the pilot program.
“A single meter reading costs irrigators $60 a read, with many irrigators owning more than one meter and some meters requiring two reads a year,” Mrs Menkens said. “Self-reading of meters is a common sense approach for unsupplemented water resources.”
Irrigators will be able read their own meters from June.
TARIFF CUT BOOST TO NUT EXPORTS
AUSTRALIAN tree nut exports, currently worth $600 million and expected to reach close to $1 billion by 2020, will benefit significantly from the recently announced Free Trade Agreement with Japan.
Already Australia’s largest horticultural exporter, the nut industry welcomed the FTA, which will see the elimination of all tariffs on nuts. The FTA is a breakthrough for Australia’s macadamia industry, with Japan being the sector’s second largest export market.
The immediate elimination of the 5% tariff once the agreement comes into effect will take about $500 off the price of a tonne of Australian macadamia kernel in Japan, enhancing the competitiveness of Australian macadamias and encouraging increased consumption and sales. Australia currently sells about 2000 tonnes of kernel in Japan and the tariff elimination will complement a strong promotional campaign by the Australian industry.
A duty-free Japanese market presents untapped opportunities for the Australian almond, walnut and pecan industries. At present 65% cent of Australia’s 80,000 tonne annual almond crop is exported, with this figure expected to grow further over the next five years as trees mature.
COAL COMPANY BEING INVESTIGATED
A COAL mining company has been charged with causing serious environmental harm on the western Darling Downs by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell said the charges followed a detailed nine-month investigation in relation to Linc Energy’s pilot Underground Coal Gasification plant near Chinchilla.
“UCG is a very different process to that used to extract coal seam gas,” Mr Powell said.
“It involves converting coal to a synthesised (or non-natural) gas via enforced combustion.
“While the harm allegedly caused to the environment is considered serious, the information available to the department suggests there is no immediate risk to neighbouring landholder water bores.”
AFTERMATH: Premier Campbell Newman (right) is shown a devastated banana plantation by Greg McLean, Mayor of the Indigenous township of Hope Vale.
IMPORTANT MARKET: About $500 will be taken off the price of a tonne of Australian macadamia kernel in Japan.