Murray River farmers accuse Australian almond growers of killing their business

Like other farmers in the Murray River region, Chris Brooks forks out $150,000 a year for a water licence – which pays for the infrastructure and right to access water to irrigate his farm. Provided there’s enough water to be allocated. This year, state water authorities have told him there’s not a drop available for high security licence holders. He was told the same thing last year.But water is available for purchase on the temporary market. At a time of drought, the price is grossly inflated, so the water’s really only available to the highest bidder.

It’s the growers further downstream who can afford to pay. Namely the profitable almond plantations in and around Mildura, that have expanded so rapidly the Almond Board of Australia is calling for a moratorium on new water licences. Something the Victorian Government has now acted on.

“There has been a massive increase in almond plantations,” Maryanne Slattery told 60 Minutes. “Almonds are a permanent plant, they need water every year. They’re very high yield. So growers are able to pay top price for water, and they can outcompete everyone else in the market for water because of the high return.Even the Almond Board, the peak industry body, has called for a moratorium on new plantations because of some predictions that almonds alone might require most of the available irrigation water in the entire Murray system…

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