Agriculture gets health minister's all clear
WITH 70% of his electorate deriving their income from the agricultural sector, Member for Southern Downs Lawrence Springborg says he appreciates the importance of agriculture to the economy.
Mr Springborg, who also holds the portfolio of Queensland Minister for Health, is a sheep and beef producer from the Inglewood district.
He was guest speaker at this year's Warwick Show and Rodeo Society's Prime Cattle and Lamb Hoof and Hook dinner.
From his perspective as an exhibitor in the prime lamb competition, Mr Springborg told guests at the dinner he saw the agricultural sector as having a bright future, despite the current downturn.
"As a fourth generation of my family committed to the land, I know it's all about breeding, feeding and attention to detail and having passion and pride in what we do," he said.
"I hear the judges talk about the quality of livestock on display and how close the competition is - but it's all about the effort producers put in."
Mr Springborg said the challenge for livestock producers lay in international markets.
"Our ability to innovate and our supply chain are our major advantages," he said.
"Consumers have grown to expect good quality meat and those standards have been able to keep the industry up to consumer demands.
"That is also the case in the international environment."
Mr Springborg said the cattle industry was one of the biggest components of the agricultural sector, and employed 200,000 Australians.
"There are 3.5 million cattle slaughtered in Queensland alone and more than 1.3 million tonnes of beef produced," he said.
"About 13,000 Australians derive their income from the live export beef industry, which puts $1.8 billion into the Australian economy.
"And a couple of silly decisions, that saw the ban being placed on live exports, threatened all that."
Mr Springborg said during his travels as health minister, he had spoken to many families in the north-west about the live export cattle ban.
"The decision has had a major impact on their stability," he said.
"We are now starting to rebuild those bridges, with the Minister for Agriculture travelling to reconnect with Indonesian authorities, this year.
"As a consequence, we saw the lightening up of restrictions on chilled box beef.
"But it will take a while to take the hurt out of those people in the north.
"It is good to see that newly appointed Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce wants to stabilise and rekindle that market into Indonesia again."
Mr Springborg said the market for red meat into south-east Asia, China, the Philippines and Taiwan had increased by more than 60% and that included beef, lamb and mutton.
"They are increasing their consumption of red meat," he said.
"But the biggest consumers of red meat are the South Americans.
"The big challenge for us now - and over the next 20 or 30 years - is to maintain profitability.
"And ensure we develop new markets."