Environmental Policy and Australia's Horticulture Sector
CIES Policy Discussion Paper 98/02
29 Pages Posted: 16 May 1998
Date Written: March 1998
Horticulture is among the fastest growing agricultural activities in Australia; with production valued at A$3.2 billion in 1995. It is also the second largest agricultural industry, after meat. Yet while Australia's horticultural producers are intensive users of land, water and farm chemicals, few economic research efforts have investigated the environmental problems associated with fruit and vegetable production. Since the early 1990s, Australia's growing focus on sustainable agriculture has led to greater scrutiny of horticultural activities, revealing several important trends and issues. These include: high and growing domestic demand for and consumption of horticultural products; increasingly health and nutrition conscious consumers concerned more and more with the quality and safety of their food; the expanding share of Australia's horticultural exports going to Asia; and growing domestic and international pressure on policymakers to address agriculture-related environmental problems and to devise measures to promote more sustainable practices.
The common outcome of these interrelated trends is further intensification of land use each year as producers convert land to fruit and vegetable farming from other, less valuable production, and as they open up new lands for fruits and vegetables, especially in the tropical north of the country. This expansion on the ground has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in water, fertiliser and chemical use. Research has identified two broad types of environmental problems linked to Australia's fruit and vegetable production practices: (1) pollution and contamination of soil, water, air and food resulting from the use of farm chemicals; and (2) degradation of natural resources, especially the deterioration in the available quantity and quality of soil and water. More recently, fruit and vegetable production has been indirectly associated with disturbance and reduction of biotopes and wildlife habitats (e.g. on the Great Barrier Reef) and with reduction in wildlife species and loss of biological and genetic diversity of plants and animals. After reviewing these linkages between horticultural production and the environment, this paper examines the types of environmental policies that local, state and national level policymakers are using to address environmental degradation caused by horticultural production. These approaches include persuasion, education, regulation, economic incentives and property rights systems.
JEL Classification: Q11, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation