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NSW Farmers to identify rail-freight failures

Grain Central, October 4, 2022

Port Botany is currently the only volume facility in NSW for containerised agricultural freight. Photo: Patrick Terminals

A TASKFORCE has been created by NSW Farmers to identify supply-chain bottlenecks which the New South Wales representative organisation says cost the state billions in lost revenue each year.

NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin has tasked the Modernising Rail Infrastructure Taskforce with outlining avoidable freight delays and finding ways to bring NSW in line with world’s best practice ahead of next year’s state election.

Taskforce chair and Moree grain grower Matthew Madden said there were some immediate opportunities to resolve issues that were costing farmers, and the NSW economy, significant amounts of money.

“The fact that we’ve got grain being driven by road into the biggest city in the country is a clear sign we’ve got some big issues with our rail-freight system,” Mr Madden said in a statement issued today by NSW Farmers.

“For example, improving rail freight from northern grain growers to the Port of Newcastle would save farmers between $16 and $22 per tonne, or up to $2.8 billion over the next 30 years, allowing them to reinvest in their businesses and drive even more economic activity in the regions.

“Another example is the South West Illawarra Rail Link that would greatly improve agricultural connections to Port Kembla, helping farmers get their produce to the world.”

Mr Madden said access to export markets was critical for farmers, but high port charges, poor rail quality and port bottlenecks were holding them back.

“Farmers want to get on with the business of farming without having to worry about these transport bottlenecks,” Mr Madden said.

“Agricultural industries are an economic dynamo in New South Wales, but we’re being outpaced by other countries and we need to get our supply chains up to scratch.

“Given we’re a key user of ports and railway lines, we need to play a key role in helping tackle the problem.”

Botany bottleneck

Port Botany in Sydney is NSW’s only volume container port, and is the point of export for much of the state’s containerised cotton, grain, meat, oilseeds and pulses.

The Port of Newcastle (PON) is pursuing a goal of becoming an alternative container port in NSW, and NSW Farmers has already vocalised its support for the proposal.

It comes despite Port Commitment Deeds in place which seek to protect income for NSW Ports, the owner of Port Botany and Port Kembla, if container volume out of Newcastle exceeds a specified cap.

Last month, Independent Member for Lake Macquarie Greg Piper gave notice that he intended to introduce to the NSW Parliament a private members bill calling for PON’s liabilities to NSW Ports to be extinguished.

The bill is expected to encounter little opposition.

One of Newcastle’s biggest advantages over Sydney is its connection to the highly efficient Hunter Valley rail network which supplies coal from mines in the Hunter Valley and beyond to Newcastle, the world’s largest coal port.

As the Hunter seeks to diversify away from coal, PON is already developing a rail-linked terminal at Mayfield to handle containerised, break-bulk and project freight.

In a LinkedIn post last week, PON said more than 28pc of container exports in NSW come from the New England region, and north-west and western NSW.

“Agribusinesses in these areas have told Port of Newcastle a congested supply chain is preventing their exports from being cost effective, forcing them to seek opportunities interstate,” the post said.

Port Botany’s capacity to handle rail freight is limited by several factors, including the number of rail paths available to containerised agricultural goods passing through the Sydney metropolitan network.

Source: NSW Farmers, Port of Newcastle, NSW Parliament

 

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