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14 October 2020
By DEAN LAWSON
Development leaders believe exceptional seasonal farming conditions on top of government support have primed the Wimmera for a socio-economic rebound out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said the ‘perfectly timed’ arrival of drenching October rain would help agriculture lever much of western Victoria to regional recovery.
He said Federal Government budget incentives on top of an expected big farming season would add an extra dimension to regional confidence and lead to widespread opportunity.
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“In a good year, agriculture in the Wimmera and southern Mallee usually generates $600-million to $700-million from a yield perspective,” he said.
“That one rain we’ve just had, coming at the right time, it has added an estimated $100-million to that figure.”
Mr Sounness, who spent many years with Birchip Cropping Group before taking the reins at the association, said the rain gave developing crops a ‘massive’ drink, allowing them to push on to generate high-quality grain.
“Employment is a big aspect in all of this,” he said.
“There is going to be a considerable amount of grain to handle and with that comes a lot of ancillary jobs.
“This is a major boost to our regional economy. While the product is not yet in the silo for this season, the farming community and the businesses servicing the industry are upbeat.
“Importantly, what has happened gives the agriculture sector confidence to invest back into their communities and that can be far-reaching, going well beyond agriculture.
“Just like the rest of the country, our region has taken a significant hit during the pandemic and there is an expectation that agriculture will need to do the heavy lifting in generating community confidence. Hopefully the region can come out the other side feeling quite strong and it has us all at WDA feeling quite excited.”
Mr Sounness said Federal Government budgetary moves were likely to work strongly alongside a positive agricultural season.
“A number of opportunities are emerging based on manufacturing and modernising support,” he said. “This will interest a number of businesses in our region who might have been thinking about how they can grow. Many now have funding opportunities to explore if guidelines match their enterprises.
“And the opportunity of an instant tax write-off with significant asset acquisition for businesses will be a big winner. Of course you need money to spend in the first place, but businesses will be feeling more confident and looking to invest back in themselves.
“In the end it means more money can circulate in the economy.
“We also have increases in home-building opportunities – the more homes we can build the better.
“There will also be a real need for labour and to get things firing there are now opportunities encouraging businesses to take on young people out of school, TAFE and so on.
“It can be easy to get lost or lose confidence, but to get people in the workforce is so important.
“There are obviously going to be a lot of challenges – many have been hit hard by what’s happened. But hopefully we can take advantage of opportunities.”
Mr Sounness said the hope was that business confidence would in turn stimulate people into re-engaging in clubs, groups and major events.
The entire October 14, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!