Northern food bowl has economic and humanitarian benefits

by 28 December 2012

A report released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last week echoes what ANDEV has been saying for over two years. Titled Feeding the Future, the report focuses on the need for Australia to lift agricultural production and development across the North.

Australia currently produces enough food to feed 60 million people, but could feed up to 120 million if parts of Northern Australia were opened up to large scale irrigated agriculture, making a major contribution to global food supply.

There is no shortage of water in the region. The Gulf receives more than eight times the annual runoff of Australia’s principal agricultural area – the Murray Darling Basin – and, according to members of the International Union of Soil Scientists, up to 17 million hectares of land in Northern Australia is arable.

Yet Northern Australia’s potential for export-oriented agriculture enterprise is severely constrained by environmental restrictions on development, excessive green tape and onerous government approval process, making agricultural infrastructure far too costly and, in many cases, illegal. These regulations must be rescinded if we are to reap the major economic benefits of developing Northern Australia, potentially increasing our agricultural exports by over $10 billion.

Government inaction will have major consequences – both in the short-term and the long-term. A low tax, low regulation Special Economic Zone should be implemented throughout Northern Australia to drive economic development and enable us to meet the humanitarian imperative of feeding the world’s growing population.

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