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Farmers meet in NT as Coalition talks Northern Australia

21 June 2013

As the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Members’ Council meets in Darwin today, the Coalition has released its northern Australia policy, boasting an ambitious plan to develop a northern food bowl and double agricultural output.

NFF President Duncan Fraser welcomed today’s announcement and the dedicated focus from the Coalition to developing northern Australian agriculture.

“Northern Australia may hold huge agricultural potential, and could play a vitally important role in helping to increase Australia’s agricultural productivity to feed a growing Asian population,” Mr Fraser said.

“Given close to 50 percent of the world’s population live directly to our north, there’s potentially a huge opportunity for this area to grow its role as a key supplier of food to our northern neighbours.

“But it is essential that this is done in way that is sustainable, and in consultation with the agricultural sector. Many people have tried, and failed, to develop agriculture in the north due to a number of challenges: while it has a guaranteed wet season, it also has a long dry season, tropical pests and diseases, labour shortages and faces the tyranny of distance.

“Most concerningly, local knowledge and expertise has often been overlooked in the discussion around developing northern Australia, at the peril of those leading the charge.

“That is why it is critical that any development in the top end be done in consultation with the agricultural sector, and with focused research and development, to understand the realities of growing, storing, transporting and marketing food and fibre in the top end.

“Developing the north also must not be done in isolation: at the same time as the north is considered, we must also be supporting – and continuously growing – agriculture across the rest of the country.

“Importantly, any attempt to develop northern Australia requires a number of key considerations, including investment in agricultural infrastructure to improve the top end ports, transport systems and processing facilities; improving access to markets, particularly in Asia given the proximity and opportunity for northern producers; ensuring a strong science-based biosecurity regime; and with appropriate research, development and extension, to ensure that producers are best placed to capitalise on the opportunity.

“The NFF has asked both the Opposition and the Government to strongly consider these areas – not just in northern Australia, but also right across the country – and we will continue to work with all sides of Parliament in the lead up to the Federal Election,” Mr Fraser said.

The NFF Members’ Council meeting continues in Darwin today with the Presidents and CEOs of the NFF member bodies (including those representing agriculture in the top end: the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, AgForce QLD, WAFarmers, Cattle Council of Australia and Australian Livestock Exporters Council, among others) discussing the big issues facing northern Australia.

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