The latest statistics on the production of principal agricultural commodities – including cereal and broadacre crops, horticulture and livestock – released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) this week raise concern about the implications for rural and urban Australia.
The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) is concerned at how the La Niña weather cycle during 2021–22 has affected rural populations, particularly in the eastern states, exacerbating health and other issues already faced by these stretched communities.
“The floods in New South Wales and Queensland have affected the winter crops, although the rain benefited broadacre crops. We express concern for the rural populations in these states and the repercussions for communities at large,” said Ms Susanne Tegen, Chief Executive of the Alliance.
“It is worrying that 369 million hectares of agricultural land is down five per cent from 2020–21, due to extreme weather impact. While we see some positive data in canola oil, cotton and wheat production in general, New South Wales farmers have suffered a large brunt of the inclement weather, with a seven per cent decrease in wheat production.
“The destructive hailstorms in South Australia and Victoria have also affected the production of horticultural crops such as grapes, potatoes, bananas and oranges.
“It is important to rethink strategies to address the ongoing issues with extreme weather patterns, acknowledging the contribution of rural areas to Australia’s economy through exports and the supply of food to the Australian population,” said Ms Tegen. “The impact will, of course, also be felt by urban people, which will be voiced as complaints about the prices of bananas and other foods.”
“We appreciate the hard work of farmers, who deal with weather change and rapidly altering global environments, and we acknowledge impact on the economy and wellbeing of rural populations. This is a chain reaction where weather affects yield, impacts exports, and reduces local availability and prices. This, in turn, affects farmers’ and communities’ income, wellbeing and mental health.
“The Alliance calls on all stakeholders to take this vicious cycle into account when drawing up primary industry and health policies, and to align strategies in order to benefit rural populations that are already extremely stretched and yet add so much to Australian life,” Ms Tegen added.
Read our Position Paper on Rural health policy in a changing climate: three key issues.
Susi Tegen, Chief Executive, National Rural Health Alliance
0429 100 464
Kathya de Silva, Media and Communications Officer
0470 487 608