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Interstate Food Bowl Rumble!

February 16, 2010

More exciting “food bowl” action in The Australian today, as Tasmania throws its hat into the ring:

Premier David Bartlett has made the $400 million plan a key part of his appeal to voters ahead of the March 20 poll, saying it will help Tasmania replace the Murray-Darling Basin as Australia’s major food-producing region.

This follows a bunch of coverage on the possibility ‘food bowls’ in various parts of Northern Australia, as discussed here and here.

This is all in response to assumptions about the nation’s current (erstwhile!?) locus of agricultural productivity: the Murray Darling Basin. As productivity there decreases, who will jump in to fill the gap?

This is a very high stakes question. It’s not just about where you can find the most suitable land and best overall biophysical conditions. It will also depend on where governments are willing to invest in major irrigation projects and other necessary infrastructure. And the recipients of such funds have a LOT to gain: jobs, economic growth, productivity, security, political capital…

In this case, adaptation is absolute politics.

You can see why David Bartlett wants to be sure that the Food Bowl Discussion includes Tasmania. What politician wouldn’t want to get in on this?

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