It seems every week we see a new article highlighting the potential of the Queensland agricultural sector to be a powerhouse of our economy over coming decades.
The horticulture industry is primed and ready to embrace these opportunities both locally and abroad as our sector continues to grow. This is why the Queensland Government should be commended for the State Budget’s $5.2 million commitment to supporting rural economic development through growing food exports over the next three years. Growcom looks forward to working constructively with government to develop the proposed Rural Economies Centre of Excellence and continuation of the One Stop Service that will benefit our diverse industry.
However, there remain some major barriers to success. We need leadership from the Queensland Government to ensure horticulture can deliver upon its potential.
Plant biosecurity requires a substantial and immediate increase in investment. While industry appreciates continued funding for the management and irradiation of the panama tropical race 4 disease affecting the state’s banana industry, we need new investment for all of horticulture to prevent incursions and establishment of plant pests before they become an issue.
For example, the Tomato Potato Psyllid virus that has been found in WA has potentially devastating consequences for the potato industry including affecting our capacity to export a wide range of horticulture products. We must do everything we can to prevent this pest from establishing in Queensland.
The sector-wide issue of power prices also needs to be addressed. Our growers are reliant on cool rooms to ensure that consumers receive safe fresh produce. Spiralling power prices are making it increasingly difficult for growers who are seeing their margins squeezed. A robust cool chain is fundamental to our export success and there is no point developing markets for high quality produce if maintaining the cool chain is cost prohibitive.
Growcom is eager to help the state government to develop a comprehensive strategy for Queensland agriculture to overcome these barriers and ensure that our industry meets its potential.