An Integrated Assessment of the Horticulture Sector in Northern Australia to Inform Future Development

Kamaljit K. Sangha, Ronju Ahammad, Muhammed Sohail Mazahar, Matt Hall, Greg Owens, Leanne Kruss, Gordon Verrall, Jo Moro, Geoff Dickinson

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Abstract

The horticulture sector in northern Australia, covering north of Western Australia (WA), Northern Territory (NT), and north Queensland (QLD), contributes $1.6 billion/year to the Australian economy by supplying diverse food commodities to meet domestic and international demand. To date, the Australian Government has funded several studies on developing the north’s agriculture sector, but these primarily focused on land and water resources and omitted an integrated, on-ground feasibility analysis for including farmers’/growers’ perspectives. This study is the first of its kind in the north for offering a detailed integrated assessment, highlighting farmers’ perspectives on the current state of the north’s horticulture sector, and related challenges and opportunities. For this, we applied a bottom-up approach to inform future agriculture development in the region, involving a detailed literature review and conducting several focus group workshops with growers and experts from government organisations, growers’ associations, and regional development agencies. We identified several key local issues pertaining to crop production, availability of, and secure access to, land and water resources, and workforce and marketing arrangements (i.e., transport or processing facilities, export opportunities, biosecurity protocols, and the role of the retailers/supermarkets) that affect the economic viability and future expansion of the sector across the region. For example, the availability of the workforce (skilled and general) has been a challenge across the north since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Similarly, long-distance travel for farm produce due to a lack of processing and export facilities in the north restricts future farm developments. Any major investment should be aligned with growers’ interests. This research highlights the importance of understanding and incorporating local growers’ and researchers’ perspectives, applying a bottom-up approach, when planning policies and programs for future development, especially for the horticulture sector in northern Australia and other similar regions across the globe where policy makers’ perspectives may differ from farmers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11647
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume14
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

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