The government’s vision for the redevelopment of the Loxton Research Centre is for it to become a hub for collaboration between industry and researchers, driving agricultural and business innovations for the benefit of the region and state.
This vision strongly resembles the original aspirations of the small group of ‘die-hards’ who had been at the centre of the ‘Horticulture Reference Forum’ through the drought years and others who had been front-n-centre of the ‘South Australian River Communities’ (SARC) Forum. The latter was the group of SA irrigators and CIT, RIT Trust management that provided the springboard for South Australian representatives in the negotiations for a fairer outcome from the Murray Darling Basin Plan for all South Australians.
The ‘die-hards’, known as the Riverland and Mallee Primary Producers (RaMPP) working group, have struggled to raise awareness of this once in a life-time opportunity the for all farmers in the Mallee and growers along the Murray to unite and present our region’s achievements and contribution to SA with boldness, with ambition and with the sense of generosity that has set this great community apart.
Riverland Wine Executive Officer Chris Byrne has not relinquished the dream. He said recently, “The last decade has had its fair share of challenges for all farmers and horticulturists. Many spirits have been tested to the limit. Remarkably, the great majority have navigated the harsh years. More than a few have resorted to ‘treading water’ but they are still here, ready to have another crack, as the outlook improves. Almonds have emerged with strength. Citrus are pushing forward again. Grains are resilient as ever and fresh-fruits are advancing and showing just what this region can do. Fragments of confidence are creeping back into grapes and wine. The fact remains; we must export the great majority of what we grow. Many of our trading challenges have stemmed from the globalisation of our industries. Competitiveness is an absolute imperative in every industry. We have to be competitive in world markets.
He added, “If we can make the RaMPP work, we can equip farming communities with the capability to perform as a complete community of primary producers, assisting each other in those areas where we lack critical mass. For example, raising capital for industry ventures is an area where none of us have sufficient expertise so we see the big government grant dollars passing us by. Biosecurity is crucial if we are to maintain our market advantage in export destinations. Research Development and extension work are our future. So much of the science is common across most groups. If we can grab the opportunity this Loxton redevelopment offers we can transform this whole region to become a new model for farmers and horticulturists across the country”.
Watch this column closely in coming weeks as farmers and growers make it happen!