The Queensland Government is currently considering recommendations from the Queensland Competition Authority for dramatic and unsustainable increases to irrigation water prices.

Water prices in irrigation schemes could rise by as much as 20% from 1 July this year.

Producers of fresh fruit and vegetables are concerned a decision to implement these prices will hurt consumers at the checkout.

“Growers have already faced a number of challenging years,” Growcom Chair, Belinda Adams said.

“The profit margin for producing fruit and vegetables is often small. And with water such an important input, growers will be left with little choice but to pass these increased water costs on.

“Farmers are genuinely concerned quality and nutritious fresh produce that’s grown in Queensland will become unaffordable for those most vulnerable.

“A strong horticulture industry is essential to support many regional economies and jobs. But the affordability of fresh fruit and vegetables is also an important public health issue.”

Predictable and affordable water is also an important factor in attracting investment into the Queensland horticulture industry.

“Water security and what is happening with Paradise Dam is an issue right across the state with a number of schemes facing dam safety cost increases in the recommended prices,” Growcom Deputy Chair, Joe Moro said.

“If flowed through fully, those prices will have a negative impact on regional Queensland with the loss of jobs and affect the viability of the Queensland horticulture industry.”

As part of their water pricing decision, the Queensland Government is considering charging irrigators for the first time for upgrades made to dams to improve public safety.

“Including dam safety upgrade costs is going to drive irrigation water prices far higher into the future, and it’s simply unfair and unsustainable,” Growcom CEO, David Thomson said.

“We don’t ask pedestrians to pay for zebra crossings. Those living in rental properties don’t pay for testing smoke alarms.

“Responsibility for repairing a dodgy dam should first fall to the contractor who built it, and then the Government who commissioned and owns it.

“The Queensland Government has only just committed to meeting the costs of repairing Paradise Dam at Bundaberg which has public safety concerns.

“It seems odd they should turn around the next minute and seek to shift these costs onto irrigators.

“Shifting costs of dam safety works onto farmers, and ultimately consumers, is another way Government is trying to prop up its budget.”