Bree Grima of Bundaberg Fruit Growers at the Ben Anderson Weir. Pic John Wilson
Bree Grima of Bundaberg Fruit Growers at the Ben Anderson Weir. Pic John Wilson

BFVG call for four-year price freeze to cope with virus

THE COVID-19 ripple effect has impacted every aspect of industry to some extent, and the agricultural sector is no exception.

To alleviate the pressures facing the industry, Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the government would invest $14.7 million, about $2300 per farmer, in 2020-21 to keep prices low for irrigators.

While welcoming the price freeze, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said they were calling for it to be extended for the full four-year pathway as producers faced challenging times.

"A number of producers have slashed in some patches of their production and have cut their plantings by one-third," Ms Grima said.

"Due to reduced sales for producers that supply the services sector such as restaurants, cafes and hotels there has been an influx of some commodities being sold on the market floor. This then leads to low prices for these products.

"Some producers have reported their current sales are anywhere between 5 to 30 per cent of normal trading, other commodities are doing better than usual."

Focusing on the potential long-term effects of coronavirus on producers, Ms Grima said the region was due to receive a small decrease for the first year in the four-year pathway, before receiving increases in years two, three and four.

"We are calling for the minister to acknowledge that the impacts of COVID will present ongoing challenges and are therefore asking for a freeze on irrigation price increases for the full four-year pathway," she said.

Dr Lynham said consultation with industry bodies had made clear irrigators' concerns around affordability and government had responded to those concerns.

"The freeze is a temporary relief measure, just as other Queensland businesses are receiving because of COVID-19," he said. "The government will monitor conditions over the next 12 months before it re-assesses and decides on prices to apply from 2021-22."

Dr Lynham said the price freeze came on top of the $3 billion in COVID-19 relief the Government was already investing to protect Queensland jobs and businesses.

Other measures undertaken by the government to reduce the impact on farmers include passing on any price decreases recommended by the Queensland Competition Authority and subsidising $42 million worth of dam safety upgrades across the state over the next for years rather than ask irrigators to contribute towards them.

Ms Grima said they also welcomed the subsidised dam safety upgrades, as "dam safety is for community benefit therefore the state should always be paying for these upgrades and not the irrigators".

She urged residents to support the region's farmers.



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