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Jobs on our farms jump by 15% in just one year: ABS

CRUSH: Fourth-generation cane farmers Brian and Mark Pressler. Photo: Eliza Goetze / Rural Weekly
CRUSH: Fourth-generation cane farmers Brian and Mark Pressler. Photo: Eliza Goetze / Rural Weekly Eliza Goetze

THE number of people employed in agriculture in the Wide Bay jumped by 1500 in 12 months and Bundaberg is leading the charge.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force stats, published by the Queensland Farmers' Federation, show a 15% rise from 10,000 people with jobs in the industry in November 2015 to 11,500 in November 2016.

It reflects a positive picture of Bundaberg's economy, with the agriculture and horticulture sectors leading a 2.1% growth in our gross regional product, business consultant Neil McPhillips said.

"Our gross regional product for the last 12 months has increased 2.1% in total over all industry sectors,” he said.

"Primary industries, which includes agriculture and horticulture, has increased about 8% in gross product.

"That means there's a requirement for greater employment in the area.”

PICKING AND PACKING: Barry Wells, Lucky Kerolen, Sharon Boyton, Angelita Mann and Chloee Wells packing lychees on Electra Farms.
PICKING AND PACKING: Barry Wells, Lucky Kerolen, Sharon Boyton, Angelita Mann and Chloee Wells packing lychees on Electra Farms. Eliza Goetze

The Wide Bay tops the state as the region with the largest agriculture sector.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers' managing director Bree Grima said the figures could be due to a combination of factors.

"My initial thoughts were that the region is now producing more, and so will have greater labour requirements, but it's still a much higher figure than I would have thought,” she said.

Incentives including the State Government's Back to Work program might have helped, she said.

"There are also now more incentives for employers to put on more staff, encouraging them to reconsider different demographics - not just unemployed but also older people.

"I also think regional areas are becoming more attractive as places to live - we've got such good access to education with the university and we're close to the city but much lower living costs.”

Mrs Grima cited the success and innovation happening in produce including sweet potatoes, macadamias and berries, which bring in more than $5.5 million at the farm gate.

BUSY PACKING: Abbotsleigh Citrus owner Michael McMahon is right in the middle of the busiest time of the year for picking and packing fruit.
Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
BUSY PACKING: Abbotsleigh Citrus owner Michael McMahon is right in the middle of the busiest time of the year for picking and packing fruit. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet BUN260416MAND17

One of the biggest moves on the region's agriculture scene this season has been the takeover of Abbotsleigh Citrus by fruit and veg giant Nutrano - read more here.

Managing partner at the Wallaville farm, Michael McMahon, said the new owners were keen to grow the business.

Along with Eden Farms, Abbotsleigh is among the Bundaberg farms jumping on the berry bandwagon - we chatted to Eden Farms' Anderw McKillop about his raspberry trial here.

Macadamia madness grows jobs off farm

BUNDABERG'S status as the world macadamia capital, hauling in 20,500 tonnes of the nuts last season using specialised machines, is not just a boon for farm workers.

"It reflects well on the diversity of our economy,” business consultant Neil McPhillips said.

"Gladstone's economy suffered a 2.8% decrease, which could be due to its reliance on the resources sector.

"We have a strong primary sector, but we also have a strong secondary sector, a large part of which is manufacturing,” he said.

Grower Craig Van Rooyen said many farmers were reinvesting bumper profits in locally made machinery.

Record sugar haul for Bundaberg and Isis

AMID the region's sweet success is the bumper season for cane growers and millers as cane area expanded across the region.

Both Isis and Millaquin Mills crushed more than 1 million tonnes of cane each for the 2016 season - a milestone last achieved for Millaquin in 2006.

Take a look inside Millaquin Mill.

Isis topped the state for sugar levels for three weeks straight in November.

"We are moving closer to a crop target of 2 million tonnes for the Bundaberg region,” Bundaberg Sugar's David Pickering said.

For Millaquin, the record haul meant more than 250,000 tonnes of sugar.

Josh Killer, 25, who is taking over the family cane farm, said he was confident about the future.

Topics:  agriculture bundaberg farm


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