Port bottlenecks holding Australia back

The state’s peak farming organisation has warned Australia will be left behind without significant improvement and investment in freight infrastructure at Port Botany.

NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said access to export markets was critical for farmers, but high port charges, poor rail quality and port bottlenecks were limiting Australia’s competitiveness.

“Agricultural industries are an economic dynamo in New South Wales, but we’re being outpaced by other countries because of the situation at our ports,” Mr Martin said.

“We have three ports and we need to get them up to scratch; look at Port Botany, at the eastern end of the country’s biggest city, it can’t take big trains and requires trucks to travel Sydney’s congested roads – that’s hardly a recipe for success.

“Our members grow food and fibre and want to get it to market, but they’re held back by these issues that need urgent attention.

In a submission to the Port Botany Landside Improvement Strategy, NSW Farmers highlighted the fact our farmers produce more than $17 billion worth of food and fibre every year, or around 25 per cent of total national production, and contribute significantly to the state’s total exports. Data from the NSW Department of Primary Industries shows primary industries exports increased by 17 per cent to $6.6 billion in 2020-21. But without significant improvement in the rail access to and operations at Port Botany, supply chain challenges will increase over time and reduce the competitiveness of NSW grain exports.

“We need the NSW Government to continue to regulate access until there are significant improvements, and only consider increasing fees if services improve and costs reduce,” Mr Martin said.

“There needs to be a priority for the regional freight that drives so much economic activity, and I think there’s a role for the state government here in removing the roadblocks to future success.

“Ultimately we want to see more efficient, more cost-effective freight options for farmers, because that will have benefits for everyone.”

At the recent annual conference, NSW Farmers members voted to advocate for priority access for rail food freight, and more efficient port access. 

“There was a real sense in the room that farmers want to get on with the business of farming without having to worry about these transport bottlenecks,” Mr Martin said.

“We’re really pleased to see the Port of Newcastle invest in mobile harbour cranes and move into the container trade – this is a common sense move in the right direction.

“The state government needs to embrace every opportunity to improve freight efficiency so we can take the handbrake off agriculture and grow our economy.”

Date: Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Media Contact: Steve Mudd  | 0429 011 690 | [email protected]