The state’s peak farming body has set up a new group to identify supply chain bottlenecks costing the state billions in lost revenue each year.
NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin has tasked the Modernising Rail Infrastructure Taskforce with outlining avoidable freight delays and finding ways to bring NSW in line with world’s best practice ahead of next year’s state election.
Taskforce chair Matthew Madden, a grain grower from Moree, said there were some immediate opportunities to resolve issues that were costing farmers – and the state – significant amounts of money.
“The fact that we’ve got grain being driven by road into the biggest city in the country is a clear sign we’ve got some big issues with our rail freight system,” Mr Madden said.
“For example, improving rail freight from northern grain growers to the Port of Newcastle would save farmers between $16 and $22 per tonne, or up to $2.8 billion over the next 30 years, allowing them to reinvest in their businesses and drive even more economic activity in the regions.
“Another example is the South West Illawarra Rail Link that would greatly improve agricultural connections to Port Kembla, helping farmers get their produce to the world.”
Farmers in NSW produce more than $17 billion worth of food and fibre every year, or about 25 per cent of total national production, with primary industries exports valued at $6.6 billion in 2020-21. But there were concerns that without significant improvement in rail access and operations at our ports, growth opportunities would be wasted and economic growth missed.
Mr Madden said access to export markets was critical for farmers, but high port charges, poor rail quality and port bottlenecks were holding them back.
“Farmers want to get on with the business of farming without having to worry about these transport bottlenecks,” Mr Madden said.
“Agricultural industries are an economic dynamo in New South Wales, but we’re being outpaced by other countries and we need to get our supply chains up to scratch.
“Given we’re a key user of ports and railway lines, we need to play a key role in helping tackle the problem.”