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Opinion

19 March, 2021

It's time to value our farmers

Editorial March 19, 2021

By Peter McCullagh

How can it possibly be that we import fruit, vegetables and seafood from overseas?

I accept we may have a need due to shortages created through natural phenomena. After Cyclone Yasi most banana stocks were destroyed. Understandable if we needed to bring fresh bananas in at that time. But it appears we are winding back our farming sector and replacing it with imported fruit and vegetables.

The current pineapple debate should be proof enough. Why have we allowed our farming stocks to diminish to the extent where we consider it appropriate to bring pineapples in from Taiwan.

Australia should be the food-bowl for the rest of the world.

We have an abundance of rich and fertile faming land. Yet governments of every political persuasion appear to be moving against this important sector.

Farming provides employment, export revenues, food for our families and food aid for our neighbours overseas. Yet governments appear not to value the contribution this sector makes to our economy and our standard of living.

Australia has a reputation as a world-class producer of quality horticulture. This sector is worth over $8.5 billion per annum. Is it worth placing this industry at risk by importing cheaper fruit, vegetables and seafood from overseas?

Australian industry since the 80s has been under pressure from cheaper imports from overseas. You cannot buy a locally built motor car today. Equally difficult to purchase Australian-made clothing, even seafood is imported in massive quantities.

Our farmers are competing against much lower wages, little or no government regulation and red tape, along with monopolistic actions of our supermarkets, the milk pricing issue is a fair refection of this.

It is time to value our farmers. When we sit down with our next meal consider where and who is responsible for the food on our table. If we do not have farmers, we will need to import everything we eat from overseas, where we have not control over the production quality, no fair pay for a far days work and most of all we are at the mercy of trade restrictions and rogue government actions.

Governments need to carefully consider the long-term results of their actions. In 1985 Senator John Button, the Federal Minister for Commerce, trade and Industry released the Button Car Plan. I’m sure no-one at that stage would have considered the last rites would be given to the Australian Automotive industry 30 years later.

If we continue to import fruit, vegetables, and seafood we will eventually reach a stage where our farmers will not be able to sustain the local industry and once it has gone, it’s gone.

Its also time to support independent retailers who do support the farmers, do stock local produce and are working to ensure we have a constant supply of fresh produce and a reasonable price.

 

Peter McCullagh

Editor


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