De­cline in lo­cal veg

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News -

QUEENS­LAND con­sumers will have less ac­cess to lo­cally grown fruit and veg­eta­bles if the new vege­ta­tion man­age­ment laws are passed with­out amend­ment.

Fruit and veg­etable peak in­dus­try body Grow­com is call­ing on the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment to re­in­state the per­mit sys­tem for clear­ing of high-value agri­cul­tural land (HVA) in the in­ter­ests of con­sumers and grow­ers.

Grow­com chief ad­vo­cate Rachel Macken­zie said un­der the present laws only 56 hectares per year have been cleared for hor­ti­cul­ture, while at the same time 5700 hectares per year of prime agri­cul­tural land is be­ing lost to ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

“Re­ally the Queens­land gov­ern­ment just needs to do the maths. We can­not have a sit­u­a­tion where the land avail­able to grow nu­tri­tious food is be­ing re­duced at an enor­mous rate and at the same time com­pletely re­move any mech­a­nism for grow­ers to ex­pand their pro­duc­tion,” she said.

“This is not just an is­sue for ru­ral and re­gional com­mu­ni­ties. This is an is­sue which will im­pact on food se­cu­rity in the cities too, and the im­pacts will be far reach­ing if th­ese laws are passed with­out amend­ment.

“We are not talk­ing about broad-scale clear­ing of large ar­eas. All we are talk­ing about is small parcels of land (max­i­mum 30 hectares) be­ing cleared to im­prove pro­duc­tion on ex­ist­ing farms and in many cases mod­ify the farm so its over­all en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print is re­duced.”

Ms Macken­zie said HVA and IHVA (ir­ri­gated high-value agri­cul­ture) pro­vi­sions were al­ready the most tightly reg­u­lated pro­vi­sions within the Vege­ta­tion Man­age­ment Act, and the gov­ern­ment must meet the in­dus­try half­way.

“Hor­ti­cul­ture is ex­tremely high value, with re­turns for some crops up to $40,000 per hectare and is con­sid­ered to be agri­cul­ture’s star per­former in terms of ac­cess to new ex­port mar­kets,” she said. “De­mand for Aus­tralian pro­duce is high and Queens­land is well placed to take ad­van­tage of the din­ing boom across Asia.

“In ad­di­tion, if ev­ery Aus­tralian ate the rec­om­mended serves of fruit and veg­eta­bles per day we cur­rently do not grow enough to meet that de­mand.

“The ra­tio­nale pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment for re­mov­ing the pro­vi­sion for HVA and IHVA is to re­duce car­bon emis­sions but surely the mi­nus­cule re­duc­tion of po­ten­tial emis­sions is not worth squan­der­ing the growth po­ten­tial of a whole sec­tor.”

LO­CAL PRO­DUCE: There could be a de­cline in lo­cally grown fruit and veg­eta­bles if new vege­ta­tion man­age­ment laws are passed. PHOTO: FILE

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