Glenreagh timber man John Green (left) with Clarence Valley Food Inc treasurer Daniel Spears looking over timber that was damaged during recent fires.
Glenreagh timber man John Green (left) with Clarence Valley Food Inc treasurer Daniel Spears looking over timber that was damaged during recent fires.

Primary producers count $163m cost

WHETHER you farm cattle, work bees or cut wood, the impact of bushfires is still reverberating around the Clarence.

With over 548,000 hectares of land in the Clarence Valley impacted by bushfires, the region’s primary producers are really feeling the pinch.

Clarence Valley Food Inc. chairperson Debrah Novak said the economic impacts of the fires were “enormous” and was calling on state and federal leaders to embrace programs to which were not “one size fits all”.

CVFI wanted local businesses and primary producers come together to build capacity and resilience to ensure the supply chains were adaptable for future natural disasters.

Ms Novak said the situation could then become a catalyst for change, as had happened in the past.

“Many of our farmers are industry leaders and have over 175 years of skin in the game.

“These fire impacts are the game changers for many local businesses, industries and farms and these natural disasters are forcing us to look at how we do business and how we farm here in the Clarence Valley,” she said.

“At this time our farmers need to learn how to scale up, diversify, build skills, reinvent themselves, learn how to value add at the farm gate, uptake technology, drought and fire proof and embrace innovation.”

One industry heavily impacted by the fires was forestry, and General Manager of sawmill J Notaras and Sons, Donna Layton, said there had been uncertainty since Christmas as their main source of timber – State Forests – had been so severely affected.

Ms Layton said it had been “really tough” and the organisation had been trying to adapt to the situation as best it could, despite the reduction in both the amount and variety of timber available.

“We are not getting as much as we would normally get. Probably between 70-80 per cent of what we would usually do,” she said.

“We get up to probably 16 different species and at the moment we are getting four different species.”

“That will affect our long term ability to supply certain species.”

In the wake of the bushfires the NSW Government announced a raft of measures to help primary producers recover.

Programs included the $75,000 Special Disaster Grant and low interest concessional loans of up to $500,000 which were available to primary producers, businesses and not-for-profits affected by the bushfires.

A spokesperson for the Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said there had been more than $42 million in special disaster grants dispersed to more than 740 primary producers across the state.



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