Water prices frozen to help growers survive pandemic
WATER prices have been frozen to help farmers survive the coronavirus pandemic, but growers remain pessimistic about long-term farming prospects.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said the State would freeze irrigation prices for a year and absorb $42 million worth of dam safety upgrades.
Before the pandemic the Queensland Competition Authority had warned growers to anticipate water price increases.
Dr Lynham said for the next 12 months any QCA recommended increases would be absorbed by the State, while price decreases would be passed on.
He said the average farmer would be roughly $400 better off in the 2020-21 financial year due to the water price freeze.
The $14.7 million direct investment would help farmers connected to the state's irrigation network, including Sunwater's Pioneer River, Proserpine River, Eton and Bowen Broken Rivers water supply schemes.
Canegrowers Mackay Area Committee chairman Joseph Borg said every irrigator connected to these schemes would benefit, but only temporarily.
"Over the next 12 months it will give some confidence to irrigators," Mr Borg said.
"But this is a five-year price path, and it's a 10 to 20-year problem down the track."
Mr Borg said growers would be saddled with high electricity and water prices even after the pandemic was contained.
"It's knocking the tin down the road," he said.
Pioneer Valley irrigators could face water prices increases of up to 45 per cent over the next four years, Mr Borg said.
The Australian Sugar Milling Council said the price freeze would significantly impact growers, as 80 per cent of Queensland's irrigation water use was used by irrigated sugarcane accounts.
"The next 12 months must be used to overhaul the failing system that has led to falling water utilisation rates and flatlining cane and sugar productivity," chief executive officer David Pietsch said.