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The Murrumbidgee

The Murrumbidgee

Beyond Food and Fibre

The bounty from the agriculture sector is easy to see; it’s the trucks of grain, bags of juicy citrus or the salad leaves on our plates. What is sometimes harder to detect are the businesses which grow around a thriving agriculture sector. Along the Murrumbidgee, but more particularly in the irrigation districts this includes not just agricultural services and suppliers but engineering and fabrication, logistics, research and consultancy businesses. These are often high tech, innovative and outwardly focussed.

The diversity of the region supported by the Murrumbidgee helps to mitigate the inevitable downturns brought about by drought, fluctuations in demand and prices, economic dips and even pandemics! The wide range of agricultural outputs from the region, ranging from livestock to aquaculture; rice to cotton; and horticulture to wine is augmented by tourism, value adding, educational and manufacturing businesses, many of which have their roots in, or support, the agricultural base of the region.

The region leads the way in agricultural innovation and value-adding and is leveraging advanced and automated technologies to maximise agribusiness diversification. These businesses are often founded on serving local farmers and irrigation businesses but from this base, expand their offering, and their reach. The employment and income that this brings to the region is effectively a multiplier of economic benefit. It also broadens the productive base of an area, reinforcing diversity, which is such an important part of resilience.

Just a glance shows that the Murrumbidgee has a vital role in supporting diversity in the region well beyond straight agriculture. The natural flow on from thriving food and fibre production is the processing of that produce. Think food processing and packaging, agri-tourism, fibre processing or aquaculture.

As agricultural output continues to increase, expanding value-added manufacturing of agricultural produce, (including food and beverage manufacturing) it helps drive diversity in the economy. There is no better example of this than in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA).  This can be seen in the current suite of businesses in the MIA, from rice processing and packaging which has occurred cooperatively in the region via SunRice for over 70 years to olive oil produced and marketed by a multi-generation farming family at Morello Grove or the internationally recognised Aquna Sustainable Murray Cod which produces premium, pond-grown Murray cod. Intensive livestock farming of poultry and pigs also takes advantage of the grain and feed grown in the area.

Agricultural output from the region accounts for a significant proportion of all agricultural output in NSW and continues to be the most important sector for employment within the Riverina.[1] The region includes some of the most highly productive agricultural land in the Murray Darling Basin. For instance, the Riverina grows 15 percent of the total Australian grape production and is the largest wine producing region in New South Wales.[2]

But this is just part of the story. The MIA is a standout success story because it also has an industrial heart in an agricultural body. A recent report noted that Griffith businesses export to over 60 different countries and most manufacturing businesses responding to the survey noted they are looking to expand by 2025.[3] The region is the headquarters to some of Australia’s most innovative and sustainable companies, with 87 percent of Griffith businesses believing that innovation and technology is a key strength in their business. Access to land, transport networks, skilled workforce and services (including clean and efficiently delivered water), are key drivers of investment.

Further upstream, investment in major solar infrastructure in Narrandera is powering the diversification of the local economy through value-adding opportunities. The pioneering Yarrabee and Sandigo Solar Projects are set to facilitate manufacturing opportunities such as organic and free-range production methods, packaging of produce and food processing and preparation to ensure industry growth and longevity. [4]

Such strength in industrial sectors is part of a positive cycle whereby investors see opportunities to expand into to the region, invest in infrastructure and develop new businesses which both underpins local employment and brings new providers to the area. For instance, GHD has seen such potential in the region that it is to establish a local presence to service emerging infrastructure and energy projects. In turn such investment and service provision make it more enticing for professionals to relocate to the region and supports retail and service industries.

So, as important as agriculture and irrigation is to the Murrumbidgee, it is not just those industries that you see at first glance that rely on water. It is also the broader and very diverse set of businesses and industry that rely heavily on this precious resource.

 

 

[1] DPI, Riverina Murray Region Agricultural Profile, 2018

[2] Wine Australia, 2018

[3] Griffith City Council, Griffith Business Survey Report 2020

[4] Narrandera Shire Council, Local Strategic Planning Statement, August 2020

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Beyond Food and Fibre

The bounty from the agriculture sector is easy to see; it’s the trucks of grain, bags of juicy citrus or the salad leaves on our

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