Dr Georgina Davis
After what was undoubtedly a challenging 2020 in light of the ongoing drought, COVID-19, a state election, worker shortages, border closures and all the rest, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members for your contributions to QFF.
As 2020 drew to a close, many undeniably have an expectation that 2021 will be better and maintain a sense of hope and renewal for the agricultural sector, while still cognisant of the various challenges that lie ahead.
But as 2020 has shown, the agricultural sector is hugely resilient. We’ve pushed through, got on with the job at hand, done our best and in many cases excelled under the added pressure to ensure domestic food security, safeguard the domestic affordability of fresh food, and maintain exports to contribute to Queensland’s balance of payments. In 2019-20, the value of the state’s rural exports was approximately $12 billion, representing over 12 per cent of the state’s total goods exports.
However, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that our resilient, collaborative, and considered approach (within and beyond industry) in all that we do has vast economic and environmental opportunities for Queensland’s agricultural sector.
I hope that everyone had some well-deserved downtime and a chance to rest, refresh and reset over the Christmas and New Year holiday season. I have no doubt that 2021 will be busier than ever, and there are opportunities that we must realise for the sector, so that they are not lost and risks that require careful management. Not least, we now have less than six months to find practical and administrative solutions for applying the 50 per cent reduction in irrigation water pricing, preparing the sector for new electricity tariffs, more land-use planning reviews, and that is just for starters. We also have opportunities that have been recognised from the disruption from COVID-19 and new initiatives to ‘bring all ideas to the table’. Add in the broadening political rift between Australia and China which has sharpened our domestic focus as well as highlighting the opportunities of new and exciting export markets.
Is it possible that Queensland’s agricultural sector could indeed double its exports and address profitability decline this decade, with support from new water infrastructure and our abundance of renewable energy sources, driven and focused by our agripreneurialism? And with ongoing low interest rates how can our sector systemically direct investment finance to projects that enable sustainable regions, build and restore infrastructure throughout Queensland and accelerate our adaptation to climate change? Certainly, we are being challenged to become more innovative, future-focused and profitable, and these are just some of the questions we will have to answer.
QFF recognises that strong advocacy and engagement are vital to the growth and achievements of the sector. In 2021, we will expand and deepen our member advocacy and strengthen the presence and influence of the Federation even further. 2021 will be Queensland’s agricultural sector’s time to shine.
A snapshot of 2020 Numbers:
Now 21 members of the Federation
44 impactful media releases
50 policy columns
18 advocacy submissions
54 informative news items
29 events (virtual and real)
4 students successfully completed an agribusiness project assisting to grow export opportunities for the nursery sector
14 trainee agriculture extension officers graduated
100 percent of Energy Savers Plus Program Extension farm audits completed, saving an average of 40,000kWh in energy, reducing emissions by 38t CO2-e per farm and cutting energy bills by an average of $16,000 after implementing the recommendations.
And there is more to come this year with 2021 event highlights including:
Red Cross ‘Supporting the Supporters’ regional workshops, North Queensland February 23-26
Future Waste Resources Conference in collaboration with other industry sectors, 1-3 March on the Gold Coast
Supporting the Australian Farm Institute event, June in Toowoomba
National Agricultural Day Luncheon, November in Brisbane
National Workforce Summit, November in Toowoomba