WA's agriculture future looks bright

01 Jan, 2016 01:00 AM
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THE past year has presented WA's agriculture industry with challenges and significant opportunities.

In the North, we've seen Cyclone Olwyn batter growers in Carnarvon, where crops worth $100 million annually were destroyed.

In the South, devastating fires in the Esperance district claimed four lives, livestock and thousands of hectares of crops.

While these have been difficult times for those regions, I am always heartened to see how resilient farmers and their communities are and how they are able to band together to overcome tough times.

However, 2015 has also been a year that has seen agriculture - and investment in food security - gain momentum on the domestic and international stage.

Agriculture in WA is changing rapidly.

Local and international investment capital is going into a wide range of agri-investment opportunities, from abattoirs and pastoral stations to niche investments in high value horticultural crops.

Much of this investment is spurred on by the world's focus on food security, and the recognition that WA provides a safe haven for long-term investment in agriculture.

Over the past 12 months I have met with a wide range of embassy and trade officials from across Asia and the Middle East and my consistent message to them has been that the best investment they can make is to partner with local experienced farmers who have the expertise necessary for our challenging growing conditions.

Foreign capital is not always necessarily best placed to attempt to own and run what are incredibly complex farm businesses and what we are beginning to see is more consideration given to investing in the handling and value-adding aspects of the supply chain.

My focus throughout this time has been to get that message out to foreign investors and encourage them to think more broadly about how they can partner with our farmers and industry to secure their food supplies.

However, emerging opportunities need to be strongly supported by on the ground measures in WA.

There is wide acknowledgment that science and technology has been integral in allowing our farmers to become some of the most efficient in the world.

As we move forward, finding ways to better target and maximise our investment dollars has never been more important.

The Barnett government has a program in place to invest more than $300m across 12 different projects that will significantly expand the agriculture and food industry.

Many of these projects are up and running, delivering results that will flow through to industry's bottom line.

We have allocated $10m to the Sheep Industry Business Centre in Katanning to cultivate new markets for sheep meat and live exports.

My recent trip to the Middle East identified the potential for a doubling of sheep exports to the region within a short time frame; our challenge is to give local farmers the confidence to reinvest in growing sheep.

This year we allocated $23m to introduce three new Doppler radars in the grain growing region.

Set to be installed in Newdegate, South Doodlakine and Marchagee, it is conservatively estimated that the radars will deliver benefits worth $108m in net value to farmers.

The installation of these Dopplers will improve the weather information available to farmers and rural communities, but given the speed of technological advances - and the rate at which farmers are taking them up - the benefits are likely to be much more significant.

In the North, we committed $15m for Northern Beef Futures, which supports growth and diversification in the northern beef industry.

With the possibility of live cattle market being opened to China in 2016, we need to dramatically increase productivity from our northern beef herd.

When coupled with the $40m Water for Food project, which is helping to prove up underground water sources, this could be a game changer for our northern cattle industry.

We are working to do the research required to maximise fodder production off pivot irrigation in pastoral areas, which will provide value adding opportunities, and importantly, increased employment prospects.

If you're lucky enough to spend some time driving around our great State these holidays, you will notice the amount of investment that is going into agricultural ventures.

From avocados in the South, to chia in the North, there is a level of energy and investment that the State has never seen before.

Agriculture has never been more exciting - the industry is gaining in confidence and the future looks bright.

I wish everyone a good Christmas and a profitable 2016.

Ken Baston,

Minister for Agriculture and Food, Fisheries.

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We need the dams because the Coalition have given the water entitlements to the mining industry.
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Dear BAAAARRY You miss the point. I created a successful farming background from shearing and
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Based on this article, I feel obliged to congratulate AWI on the magnificent job they do with