February 12, 2021
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has expressed concerns the State Government is “unfairly picking winners” by restricting the type of farmers who can benefit from an election commitment of a 50 per cent price cut for horticulture irrigation water.
The QFF welcomed the government’s announcement to reduce water prices by at least 15 per cent, but it has questioned the decision to offer different discounts to different commodities and customers of different water providers.
CEO Dr Georgina Davis said it was wrong to favour one agricultural commodity or regional community over another by selectively providing favourable pricing.
“The Queensland Government is determined to rewrite the accepted definition of horticulture and exclude sugar cane, cotton, nuts, flowers, turf (grass), and nursery growers from receiving the announced price reduction,” Dr Davis said.
“While some fruit and vegetable growers will also be prevented from accessing cheaper water because they are not serviced by government water supply corporations Sunwater and Seqwater which could cause competitive disadvantages within the sector and result in market distortions.
“The government’s poor decision is exacerbated by expected irrigation water price increases from July 1, meaning many farmers will be no better off even if they qualify for the 50 per cent discount, as they manage the ongoing effects of drought and COVID-19.
“Uncertainty also exists around how the government and its corporations plan to administer two levels of discounts in a transparent and robust manner, which is likely to be extremely difficult and expensive.”
The QFF has called on the State Government to extend the 50 per cent discount to all horticulture growers and all irrigation customers of Sunwater, Seqwater, Local Management Authorities and other water providers.
“While it may have State Budget implications, the greater discount would provide a welcome boost to all of Queensland’s irrigated agricultural industries and achieve the government’s aim of facilitating more crops, more jobs and more value,” Dr Davis said.