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Warning about consumer access to Queensland produce

LOCAL PRODUCE: There could be a decline in locally grown fruit and vegetables if new vegetation management laws are passed.
LOCAL PRODUCE: There could be a decline in locally grown fruit and vegetables if new vegetation management laws are passed. Brett Hanwright

QUEENSLAND consumers will have less access to locally grown fruit and vegetables if the new vegetation management laws are passed without amendment.

Fruit and vegetable peak industry body Growcom is calling on the Queensland Government to reinstate the permit system for clearing of high-value agricultural land (HVA) in the interests of consumers and growers.

Growcom chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie said under the present laws only 56 hectares per year have been cleared for horticulture, while at the same time 5700 hectares per year of prime agricultural land is being lost to urbanisation.

"Really the Queensland government just needs to do the maths. We cannot have a situation where the land available to grow nutritious food is being reduced at an enormous rate and at the same time completely remove any mechanism for growers to expand their production,” she said.

"This is not just an issue for rural and regional communities. This is an issue which will impact on food security in the cities too, and the impacts will be far reaching if these laws are passed without amendment.

"We are not talking about broad-scale clearing of large areas. All we are talking about is small parcels of land (maximum 30 hectares) being cleared to improve production on existing farms and in many cases modify the farm so its overall environmental footprint is reduced.”

Ms Mackenzie said HVA and IHVA (irrigated high-value agriculture) provisions were already the most tightly regulated provisions within the Vegetation Management Act, and the government must meet the industry halfway.

"Horticulture is extremely high value, with returns for some crops up to $40,000 per hectare and is considered to be agriculture's star performer in terms of access to new export markets,” she said. "Demand for Australian produce is high and Queensland is well placed to take advantage of the dining boom across Asia.

"In addition, if every Australian ate the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables per day we currently do not grow enough to meet that demand.

"The rationale provided by the government for removing the provision for HVA and IHVA is to reduce carbon emissions but surely the minuscule reduction of potential emissions is not worth squandering the growth potential of a whole sector.”