Concerns have been raised over the future of irrigated agriculture in Queensland following the release of the irrigation pricing review draft report.
The draft report comes almost 12 months after Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham announced the long-awaited review.
At the time, Dr Lynham said part of the review would be setting a cap on yearly price increases for irrigators.
"The goal is for irrigators to have greater pricing certainty, simplicity and transparency to allow them to plan for future years,'' Dr Lynham said.
"As part of the review process, extensive consultation will be undertaken with stakeholders and water users to ensure we strike the right balance between the interests of customers and businesses.
"The QCA will be required to limit annual price increases similar to previous reviews."
However, this 'cap' on pricing appears to be missing with the cost-reflective fixed prices forecast to increase by as much as 372 per cent.
This increase could be felt by both Callide tariff groups, with prices going from $18.50 per megalitre in 2019-20 to $87.33/ML in 2020-21.
The Callide tariff groupings are not the only ones to incur significant changes, with the Dawson Valley - River (HP local management supply) tariff group increasing from $42.77/ML to $108.51/ML for a 154pc change, while Three Moon Creek - Groundwater (pricing option 1) tariff group would see a 102pc increase.
Queensland Farmers' Federation chief executive officer Travis Tobin said there were some very concerning elements in the draft report.
"Clearly, some of the proposed increases are not sustainable," Mr Tobin said.
"The state government has a long held policy position of no increases above $2 real per ML, which we would expect to continue, but there are some longer term issues with ever increasing cost reflective pricing that will need to be worked through.
"The value of irrigated agriculture is critical to the Queensland economy, and all Queenslanders directly benefit from what it produces such as access to cost competitive, fresh local produce.
"Perhaps the question the Queensland government needs to ask itself is whether it places sufficient value on integrated food, fibre and foliage production to the Queensland economy."
LNP opposition spokesman for natural resources Dale Last said the draft report had "completely failed" to acknowledge and address farmers' concerns of year-on-year water prices increases.
"SunWater's own 'cost-reflective' water prices numbers will effectively kill numerous irrigation schemes in regional Queensland, yet this report has not offered a solution to that," Mr Last said.
"There are serious questions that need answering around the whole state government owned and managed SunWater's ability to deliver value for money for farmers.
"Water prices are skyrocketing because SunWater can't control its costs. It's completely unacceptable for SunWater to now be demanding more money from farmers just because they can't get their house in order."
Mr Tobin said the Queensland Competition Authority must now consider stakeholder feedback before finalising its report to the government.
"If there aren't significant changes to some of the recommendations, the government will have some very important policy decisions to make.
"We expect the government to hold QCA accountable on its recommendations and decision making, particularly where QCA has failed to provide transparent reasoning for its approaches."
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