Water price freeze offers only temporary relief

Water price freeze offers only temporary relief
May 5 2020

CANEGROWERS has welcomed today’s announcement from the Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham that irrigation water prices would remain unchanged or fall in over the next twelve months.

“Back at the start of March, when farmers were told by the Queensland Competition Authority it recommended price rises of up to 50% in some regions, CANEGROWERS called for a freeze,” CEO Dan Galligan said.

“We are pleased to see the Queensland Government has listened to our concerns and provided some temporary relief.

“This gives some certainty for the next year to irrigators who are trying to manage escalating domestic price pressures in a difficult global market but it leaves pricing after 2021 up in the air.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded everyone how much we rely on farmers and our food systems and a government ‘investment’ towards water supplies to keep production happening at an affordable level is justified.

“However, this one-year price freeze is a temporary measure. It still puts farmers in the firing line of potential massive price increases in the future. For example, irrigators in the Pioneer Valley are facing increases in recommended water prices of up to 45% over the next four years.

"The next year needs to be used to address some outstanding issues and put in place long term plans for irrigation schemes to be productive and viable to support food production."

CANEGROWERS has called for a systematic review to identify and address a number of water resource management, infrastructure and related matters which may improve the viablity of irrigation schemes under stress, beginning with Pioneer, Eton and Lower Mary.

“With more than 65% of our $2.5 billion sugarcane crop in Queensland reliant on irrigation, the resilience and efficiency of irrigation schemes is a huge issue for our industry," Mr Galligan said.

“We are an export industry competing in a highly volatile global market and having our productivity constrained by local policies is not sustainable long term. 

“The Minister should be acknowledged for providing this short-term relief and we look to working with the government on longer term solutions.”