Cane crops being irrigated at Teddington near Maryborough.
Cane crops being irrigated at Teddington near Maryborough.

Canefarming future depends on long-term water solution

THE State Government's decision to freeze irrigation water prices next year has been welcomed by Canegrowers Association district manager for Maryborough Cameron Waterson.

But he said the industry was looking for more certainty.

"We're not just here for the next 12 months, we're looking at the long-term," Mr Waterson said.

He said many farmers relied on irrigation during the dry weather.

Mr Waterson said the weather had dried off substantially since rain drenched the region in February and anyone with access to irrigation had been using it in the last three to four weeks.

"Those crops are looking pretty good, but the dry land is starting to show signs of needing rain again."

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the State Government would freeze irrigation prices and absorb dam safety costs to help support the industry through the coronavirus crisis.

"Our farmers are doing it tough as they deal with the fallout of long-running drought, bushfires, severe weather events, volatile markets and now, the impacts of COVID-19," Dr Lynham said.

"We need to keep our farmers in business for our food and fibre and to create jobs, just like other Queensland employers."

"The government will invest $14.7 million - about $2300 per farmer - in 2020-21 to keep prices low for irrigators.

"In effect, the government's decision means that irrigators will, on average, be roughly $400 a year better off in 2020-21 than this year."

Dr Lynham said consultation with industry bodies had made clear irrigators' concerns around affordability and government had responded to those concerns.

"The government will monitor conditions over the next 12 months before it reassesses and decides on prices to apply from 2021-22."

LNP Shadow Minister for Natural Resources Dale Last said farmers were already paying too much for water and needed a long-term solution to give them a viable and secure future.

"This announcement fails to address the larger structural issues that affect water pricing in Queensland," Mr Last said.

"Farmers are already paying too much for water and kicking the issue into the long grass will only continue the pain for another year.

"It's clear that Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Water Minister are not listening to the concerns of irrigators.

"Labor has no plan for affordable water for our farmers, which means no plans for jobs and no support for our agriculture industry.