Cannabis crops could be the new industry for drought-stricken farmers in south-west Queensland.
The decision by the Federal Government to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis has communities around the country vying for the right to grow the crop.
Representatives from Queensland Health and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries met withpotential growers in Atherton earlier this week. But it is early days and the operating scheme is still under development.
Paroo Shire Mayor Lindsay Godfrey is urging the State Government to give Cunnamulla irrigators a shot, and is calling on the Sate Government to fast-track the development of its operating scheme. He said the Cunnamulla community was well set up to trial the production of medicinal cannabis, and was desperate for new industry in the region since the demise of the table grape industry.
We’ve got a pretty good river system here on the Warrego and the weir. Unless it’s an exceptional drought we’ve got a good supply.Don Dunsdon, irrigator
“These days grapes move around the world and the premium is no longer there for table grapes, so we’re looking for options,” he said.
“The drought and a whole range of issues have very much depressed the local economy and lost 100 workers who came into our community to manage table grapes … so that was an enormous economic hit to our community.
“So we’re saying that because there’s not a lot of opportunity, and we’ve got some very good irrigators and good water supply, that we deserve consideration.”
Warrego river system provides good supply
Irrigators on the Warrego River produced table grapes for more than 30 years. But in recent years, falling prices saw all grape growers in the Cunnamulla area pull out their vines. Don Dunsdon said they still had the irrigation and infrastructure available. “We’ve had to get rid of our grape industry out here, and since this has come up I think, why don’t we? It ticks all the boxes,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty good river system here on the Warrego and the weir. Unless it’s an exceptional drought we’ve got a good supply. “For a start we’re geographically in the right position for once … we’ve still got the infrastructure from our grape farms, we’ve got good water supply, and our land is all organic.