Wimmera farmers concerned about port sale

WIMMERA farmers are concerned about a State Government plan to sell the Port of Melbourne.

Last week, the government announced its intention to sell the port on a 30 to 40-year lease.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president and Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke said placing the port in private hands could lead to higher freight charges.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that agriculture and regional Victoria is behind the port’s economic growth, so handing that gateway to a private corporation that’s driven by shareholder returns raises serious alarm bells for farmers,” he said. 

Mr Jochinke said the port was crucial to the sustained viability of farmers.

“The port provides a crucial gateway to international markets,” he said.

“Cereal grains, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, stockfeed and meat are among the top 10 exports out of the port.”

In January the VFF put a $250-million investment in rail freight at the top of its election year wish-list.

Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said any investment in rail would require the revenue from the sale of the port.

“What is interesting about what the VFF said is that they are calling for the government to invest in infrastructure, but we need to raise revenue to be able to do that,” he said. 

Mr Jochinke accused both the State Government and the Opposition of prioritising the needs of urban commuters ahead of farmers’ needs.

“If both sides of politics are hell-bent on the sale then Victorian farmers, as the port’s biggest export group, want rock-solid guarantees on competition, price and access,” he said.

“This should not simply be a quick sell-off to bankroll the Coalition’s and Labor’s 2014 election promises.

“If the port is to be sold off, then farmers want to see the lion’s share of the funds injected into regional Victoria.” 

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