Citrus Australia will ask the Federal Minister for Water Resources, David Littleproud, to make immediate changes to the water market that would help protect growers from inflated prices.
The current Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry will investigate whether the water market rules in the Water Act 2007 and the 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan are working as intended. The final report is not due to be completed until the end of 2020.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock believes current prices are higher than seasonal demand would dictate. “Growers should not be forced to wait until the current ACCC review is completed,” Mr. Hancock said.
“Higher prices are making it unfeasible for growers to maintain their orchards, which contribute almost $500 million to the national economy in exports alone.
“With below average rainfall this winter, parts of the country in drought, and conditions expected to further deteriorate heading into summer, the situation needs to be resolved quickly.”
Mr. Hancock said existing legislation, and the powers already vested in regulatory bodies such as the ACCC and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), could be enacted to resolve current water market issues.
“We will ask Minister Littleproud to support citrus growers and the agricultural industry by increasing the transparency of the water market, including a requirement for water brokers to be licensed and regulated.
“Water market trading should be consistent with corporation, consumer and competition law and there is no reason steps shouldn’t be taken immediately to ensure this is the case.”
Mr. Hancock said the separation of water from agricultural land titles meant greater regulation of water sales was necessary. “The balance has shifted too far towards traders and brokers making a profit at the expense of growers, who contribute to regional communities and the national GDP,” Mr. Hancock said.
“Without immediate changes to the current system, growers will face increasing pressure to their businesses, which will result in irrevocable effects for the wider community.”