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Why a second Sydney airport is (potentially) good for farmers

Could billions more spent on city infrastructure actually pay dividends for farmers? That’s our hope when it comes to Sydney’s second airport.

Farmers have welcomed the commitment to build a second Sydney airport.  

I bet that’s a sentence you didn’t think you’d read! The last thing the bush needs is more money spent on city infrastructure.

Not when our country roads and rail lines are in disrepair, and many farmers can’t even make a mobile phone call from their place of business.

Well, it’s true we need investment in roads, rail and telecommunications and we need it STAT.

But also important are efficient, reliable pathways to deliver our farm produce to market. Markets which are, by and large, overseas. Air freight has a role to play in this.

Australian agriculture is export dependent - three-quarters of what we produce is exported.

And while our international customers are willing to pay a premium for the high-quality food and fibre products, they are still price sensitive. Take Asia, where much of our produce is destined - north Asia in particular. Europe, Russia, the United States are all relatively ‘close’ in export terms. And when the price is right and the quality is comparable, picky customers won’t hesitate to stray from the green and gold.

So to maintain market share, Australian farmers need to minimise costs of production and increase efficiencies - wherever possible. According to Infrastructure Australia, logistics are the largest, single cost item in the production of many agricultural industries, amounting to as much as 48.5 per cent of farm-gate costs.

A more efficient supply chain, i.e. from farm to an international market in less than one day, means lower storage costs, less handling time and ultimately better farm gate returns with the benefits flowing to regional and rural communities.

Australian agriculture is export dependent - three-quarters of what we produce is exported.
Fiona Simson, President, National Farmers' Federation

It helps farmers to stay ahead of the game in our current markets, and helps open up new opportunities.

For example, a dedicated Cathay Pacific freight-service from Toowoomba now delivers Queensland fruit, veggies, and chilled meat direct to Hong Kong. 

Canberra Airport’s partnership with Singapore Airlines has cracked open new opportunities for cold country, Tablelands and Western Slopes produce to Singapore - think wine, beef, lamb fruit and nuts.

A new 24-hour Sydney airport spells new, efficient avenues to market for Aussie perishables such as dairy, fruit, vegetables and seafood.

It’s entirely feasible that produce could be in market within 20 hours of leaving farm.

When contemplating the new Badgery’s Creek airport, our member body, NSW Farmers, is working with NSW industry and government stakeholders to promote creation of an advanced agricultural precinct linked to the transport hub.   Such a precinct would ensure a new era for food and fibre value adding that leverages new technology across automation, energy and water efficiency, cold chain logistics, freight and advanced manufacturing. 

It’s clear that for agriculture the sky is the limit when it comes to enhanced international air freight services via a second Sydney airport.

But, and there is a big but, a new state-of-the-art, all-day, all-night airport will be next to useless if the connections don’t exist.  It will also be compromised if a damaging curfew is imposed.

For the airport to realise benefits for agriculture and for our regions there must be a rail line connecting the regions to the terminal. Free flowing, adequate arterial roads must also be developed.  This doesn’t mean we don’t need more investment in regional and rural roads and rail to get high quality food and fibre from the farm-gate to current and new ports – it is all part of an efficient supply chain.

As Shadow Infrastructure spokesperson Anthony Albanese correctly said, the rail and the roads must be in place on day one of the airport’s operation. This requires big-picture vision from our political leaders.  If we are going to do it, let’s do it right.

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