Industry bodies say no water, no food

By Country News

Irrigators and farmers in the southern basin are desperate for water as they claim coronavirus has revealed Australia's reliance on exports for food.

A recent 60 Minutes episode said bureaucrats were refusing to give farmers along the Murray River water to grow crops and were instead, "selling it to the highest bidder".

In the episode, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said all levels of government needed to address the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, with industry bodies backing his request.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks said acting now would prevent a food crisis in Australia.

“Without water for agriculture to grow our staple foods, we are heading towards serious food shortages,” Mr Brooks said.

“The Federal Government must immediately release water allocations for this growing season.

“We have lost more than 60 dairies, rice production has dropped by 95 per cent, grain growers are currently sowing but with no irrigation water, the chance of failure is high.”

NSW Farmers president James Jackson agreed the basin plan needed to be re-worked to better balance communities, economies and the environment.

“There are farmers in the southern basin who cannot grow food crops due to zero water allocation,” he said.

“A root and branch review of the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on food production is well overdue and we are asking the NSW Government to call for a royal commission to investigate whether there is a better way of balancing food production with environmental outcomes.

“It is simply not going to be possible to remove a further 450 Gl from farmers without decreasing food production.”

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said it was disappointing that a pandemic was needed to highlight a food crisis.

“What we need now is action and an end to the denial from politicians and advocacy groups,” she said.