Sunday, 20 May 2012

Double agricultural output: minister

Peter Walsh. Photo: Leanne Pickett

Darren Gray
VICTORIA'S farmers have been set a new goal: double agricultural production by 2030 to meet the growing world demand for food and fibre.
The ambitious goal was unveiled by Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh last week. ''If we work at it we can double production of food and fibre in Victoria over the next 20 years. I think that is achievable and in my view - as someone who was in business before I started this [political] life - if you don't actually set yourself a target … you don't actually strive to do things,'' he said. ''Over the next 20 years agriculture could be to the Victorian economy what mining has been to Western Australia and Queensland over the last decade.''
Mr Walsh, a former farmer, revealed his goal for agriculture in an address last week to the Rural Press Club of Victoria. He also released new figures on the value of Victorian farm exports for 2011, which climbed 17 per cent to a record $8.7 billion.
Victoria's biggest agricultural export earner last year was the fibre segment (wool, hides and skins), which was valued at $1.99 billion, a jump of $507 million on 2010. Dairy occupied second place, earning the state $1.89 billion. Victoria accounted for 85 per cent of all Australian dairy export earnings.
Mr Walsh said Victoria was ''the major player'' among the states in the production of food and fibre exports, generating 28 per cent of export earnings, well above New South Wales (18 per cent) and Queensland (17 per cent).
He said further gains in agricultural production could come from a range of developments, including better management of properties. In dairy, improved genetics among the state's dairy herd and improved feeds could deliver large benefits.
Mr Walsh said Victorian soils were well suited to produce legumes and lentils to meet the ''big demand'' overseas. The red meat industry also had potential for growth.
Peter Tuohey, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, welcomed the new goal for farm production. ''Victorian farmers are already doing an excellent job and have the capacity to achieve this vision,'' he said.
Doubling Victorian agricultural production by 2030 was possible, he said.
''It's certainly a good goal and it's certainly achievable, but there's probably some hurdles in the way just at the moment to prevent it. And one of those hurdles is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.''
Other hurdles included transport infrastructure - which meant freight costs for farmers were substantial and a disincentive - and the carbon tax, which would significantly push up energy costs, he said.
Farmers federation livestock group president Ian Feldtmann said of the goal to double agricultural production: ''It's certainly an ambitious goal but certainly one that is indicating that the minister and the government see the real value of agriculture.''
Major increases in production would create more jobs and encourage more young people to have a career in agriculture, he said.
Original Article Here

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