AUSTRALIA – Currency, drought, shipping welfare and demand problems are simultaneously providing huge pressure on Queensland farmers, which has led to calls for a more ‘flexible policy’ to secure rural businesses.
Cattle prices seen in recent weeks have been among the lowest for decades, said Ian Burnett AgForce Queensland General President.
“The issues impacting on these prices and other operating conditions are many and varied, but a number of these have been accumulating force over some time.”
And while praising Queensland farmers as some of the leading producers in the world, well adept at coping with risk in their business models, Mr Burnett said that short term assistance measures are needed.
“These longer term factors include the high Australian dollar,high debt levels as a result of borrowing to purchase property at elevated prices followed by a correction of the market over the past five years, the Australian Government failing to secure Free Trade Agreements with key Asian trading partners, the 12-month suspension of live export to Indonesia in June 2011 and consistently increasing input costs including fuel and electricity.”
Detailing government reactions to the severe producer hardship, Minister of Agriculture, Joe Ludwig said that Farm Finance and deposit schemes had been introduced to reduce pressure on farms. He also revealed plans to have a dedicated rural finance officer for the gulf region in Queensland.
Mr Burnett added that economic woes have been compounded by bushfires, floods events and a drought covering a third of Queensland.
Key policies for both the short and longer term include, but are not exclusive to:
- Facilitation of professional, cost neutral debt mediation services
- Government commitment to in-event business support for some 'droughted' producers
- demonstrated reasonable preparedness measures
- Reform of the Vegetation Management Act (1999). More ‘realistic’ frameworks – removal of ‘Wild
- Rivers Legislation and other rural red tape
- Halt on rent rises until an alternate rental methodology is finalised
- Free Trade Agreement prioritisation – China, Korea and Japan
- Removal of stamp duty
- New visa category to allow sponsorship for semi-skilled agricultural workers
- Relaxation of transport requirements for drought affected producers
AgForce will continue to work for rural businesses and ensure security in the sector for years to come, concluded Mr Burnett.
Top image via Shutterstock