Ahead of Saturday's federal election, the coalition has announced it will pursue a 'protected horticulture strategy' to help farmers grow more fresh produce with less water, if it is re-elected.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the horticulture sector employs more than 60,000 people nation-wide and it is important to promote new technology to support jobs and growth in the sector.
“Protected horticulture offers a significant opportunity to boost production and help reach our ambition of a $100 billion agricultural sector by 2030,” he said. “Using glasshouses, netting and polytubes could help Australian growers boost production while reducing water use. Dutch farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 per cent which shows the potential of protected cropping and horticulture. It also helps to reduce losses from pests and extreme weather.”
The Minister adds that the Government is already investing about $55 million a year in protected horticulture through the Rural Research and Development Corporations.
“It’s important we find the best way to further expand the use of protected cropping in Australia so farmers get the best possible return on their investment," Mr Littleproud said. “Our $1.8 billion protected cropping industry offers optimal growing conditions for premium produce and delivers higher yields with less water usage, making it an essential tool during times of drought. “We’ve also invested $4.3 million to The National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre, a state-of-the-art glasshouse facility for research and education.”
The Liberal Nationals Government has also promised it will invest in raising awareness of the crucial role bees play in agriculture as well as breeding better bees to pollinate food crops. Funding of $1.5million will go towards promoting the role of bees in the entire food chain.
"Bees pollinate our fruit, vegetables and other crops, including those which feed the livestock which supply our meat. We need healthy bees for our food security,”
Mr Littleproud said. “The annual economic value of honey bee pollination in Australia is around $14.2 billion, which is 140 times greater than the $100 million annual value of the honey bees produce. Without bees, two thirds of Australian agricultural production would be at risk.”
Water policy has been another major part of the election campaign so far, and Minister Littleproud is reminding voters that the Coalition will not be lifting the cap on water buybacks, and will keep the socioeconomic test "to make sure any further water recovery projects only have positive and neutral impacts”.
In addition, Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has been appointed as the Northern Basin Commissioner to make sure the rules are enforced.
“We’re also investing in the technology of the 21st century such as electronic water level detectors and satellites to keep track of how much water is in the system and where it is going. It’s important we make sure everyone is doing the right thing so everyone gets their fair share of water," Minister Littleproud said.
Attempts were made to contact the Labor Party and its Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, to offer them the chance to discuss their horticulture policies.
The election will be held, this Saturday, May 18.