On track for fu­ture growth

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - Wayne John­ston Wayne John­ston is pres­i­dent of the Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion

LAST week the State Govern­ment re­leased its score­card for Tas­ma­nian agri­cul­ture in the 2015-2016 fi­nan­cial year.

The re­sults are very pleas­ing, even more so as they came in a year when we faced chal­leng­ing sea­sonal con­di­tions and some weak­en­ing of com­mod­ity mar­kets.

Tas­ma­nia’s agri­food pro­duc­tion grew by 5.9 per cent in the pe­riod, with beef and cher­ries demon­strat­ing impressive growth. The to­tal value of agri­cul­ture now stands at $1.48 bilAt lion dol­lars. By any mea­sure, this is an out­stand­ing re­sult and some­thing we can all be very proud of.

Red meat pro­duc­tion re­mains the key con­trib­u­tor to gross value, fol­lowed closely by dairy. Hor­ti­cul­ture, in par­tic­u­lar cher­ries, con­tin­ues to demon­strate phe­nom­e­nal growth.

the same time, the Govern­ment re­leased an up­date on its agri­food plan. It has set a goal of in­creas­ing Tas­ma­nia’s agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion to $10 bil­lion a year by 2050. The lat­est fig­ures for 2015-2016 show that we are cur­rently on tar­get.

The Govern­ment con­tin­ues to de­velop pol­icy set­tings de­signed to main­tain this growth. The TFGA com­mends this ap­proach and looks for­ward to sim­i­lar com­mit­ments from La­bor and the Greens.

That said, we should be un­der no il­lu­sions about the chal­lenges fac­ing the sec­tor, many of which I have spo­ken about in this col­umn.

On­go­ing com­mit­ment to biose­cu­rity and en­sur­ing it is funded on a needs ba­sis is para­mount in pro­tect­ing our sec­tor and the growth seen in th­ese lat­est fig­ures.

The TFGA has reser­va­tions about the ex­ist­ing ir­ri­ga­tion mod­els. If we are to con­tinue this growth and re­main com­pet­i­tive in na­tional and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets our costs of pro­duc­tion need to be re­duced to a sus­tain­able level. In­flated costs of en­ergy and water are not the way to achieve this. We will con­tinue to work with all par­ties and stake­hold­ers to ad­dress th­ese cost im­posts and to seek other ways to max­imise on-farm prof­itabil­ity.

Th­ese fig­ures also demon­strate the qual­ity of the state’s agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, which is not only recog­nised na­tion­ally but which the world now ac­tively seeks. Over­seas ex­ports are up 12.2 per cent to just shy of $.7 bil­lion. Our ca­pac­ity to pro­duce niche and high-end value prod­ucts is sec­ond to none. The chal­lenge is to find a way for our com­mod­ity prod­ucts to also reap the ben­e­fits.

Ir­re­spec­tive of the agri­cul­tural prod­uct we need to en­sure it car­ries the Tas­ma­nian brand and in do­ing so de­mands a pre­mium. There is ex­ist­ing sup­port but we must also ac­tively pro­mote the brand.

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