WA’s ability to produce food is becoming a concern as farmers in the South West consider selling their land and leaving the beef industry because of price squeezes.
High input costs and low returns are making it difficult for cattle farmers to stay in the industry with the price of land being pushed up because of competition from tree companies and lifestylers.
Shire of Nannup president Barbara Dunnet said recent figures show that 50pc of the shire is already planted to trees.
Ms Dunnet said sales of agricultural land had increased rapidly in the past three months.
“Farmers are having to work off farm to enable them to retain their farming enterprise, some are subdividing their properties into smaller lots and selling them off and there is an increase in the amount of bluegums being planted,” she said.
“This has been slowly happening over time, but recently it has galloped ahead.”
Ms Dunnet said the shire approved the planting of another 17,000ha of land to bluegums before Christmas.
“The shire is concerned about the amount of land going to trees and we did try to find a way to preserve that area for future production, but at the end of the day we cannot really block tree companies from buying the land,” she said.
“It is a concern as to where our future food production is going to come from.”
Ms Dunnet said while the recent Government announcement that it would fund a campaign to promote WA food was welcomed, it would not be successful if there was not enough supply to cope with any increase in demand.
“The ‘Buy West, Eat Best’ campaign is a good initiative, but if the number of farmers leaving the land in Nannup is representative of the whole south west, then there will not be enough food produced to support our domestic market,” she said.
“The Government does not appear to have any policies in place to cope with the changing face of agriculture.”
Ms Dunnet said if forecast climate change impacts on agriculture, the South West was going to be an important food bowl for WA.
“Experts are saying that, globally, twice as much food is going to have to be produced off half as much land,” she said.
“There is talk of shifting more food production to the Kimberley, but not all types of food can be grown in that climate and that is why the South West is going to be an important food production region in the future.”