Irrigation underpins northern Basin food and fibre production worth $6 billion a year

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Irrigation underpins northern Basin food and fibre production worth $6 billion a year

Food and fibre production in the northern Murray Darling Basin is worth more than $6 billion a year, according to a report by leading Australian economic analysis company Macroplan.

The report, commissioned by the Northern Valley Irrigator groups, sets out the value and flow-on benefits of investment in irrigated agriculture in the northern Basin.

Drawing on Australian Bureau of Statistics and other data, the report found:

  • The northern Basin generated $6.1 billion in livestock and cropping activities in 2019-20.
  • Irrigation supported stock watering and feed, general agriculture and manufacturing industries (generally food processing industries).
  • The region is growing, with 645,200 residents as of June 2020 up from 641,000 in June 2016.
  • The region relies heavily on agriculture for its economic and social wellbeing, with 27,700 businesses operating predominantly in agriculture (38.6% of a total 71,800 businesses).
  • Agriculture employed 51,000 people by May 2021, an increase of 18,300 workers since 2016 (representing 9.3% growth), a trend Macroplan expects to continue to grow.

“The report shows the economic and social value of irrigated and other agriculture in in the northern Basin,” explained Michael Drum, Executive Officer of Macquarie River Food and Fibre.

“Regional communities dominated by agriculture are circular economies, each sector relies on the other to be successful. Much of the irrigated product both primary and secondary uses, goes to feeding a highly valuable livestock industry as well the food we eat and the clothes we wear”.

“Another example is the northern basin produces 40% of Australia’s eggs consumed, only possible through the feed being grown locally, including irrigation” said Mr Drum.

“There is often a tendency to focus on irrigated cotton and other cropping, but the industry has a far bigger footprint than that in the Northern Basin”.

“In fact, cropping including cotton represents less than one-third of the economic output of the northern Basin, yet supports the broader agricultural sector in many direct and indirect ways, ” Mr Drum said. “The report gives a good representation of the northern basin Agriculture sector. Irrigation is more reaching than cotton and cropping, it’s a key part of the economies that support local businesses and jobs, communities and critical Australian agriculture.”

The report is available here.

Making Every Drop Count

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