Dominic Calder, DIVERSIFICATION DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, NT FARMERS
2022 has been full of opportunities. Investment interest into NT farming is strong with many interstate farmers looking to expand into the North. Nuts, cotton, mangoes, melons, spices, legumes, peanuts and hemp are among the potential crops that are looking for a home in the NT.
Where the strongest growth has come from is the pastoral sector diversifying and strengthening their existing cattle operations. Cattlemen are taking the steps towards sustainably developing their suitable land to drought proof and build their herds.
Cotton is the most responsible crop for Top End dryland farming country. The low reliance on chemicals, strong industry support, low start up infrastructure costs and good returns has shown that growing a cotton for fodder and fibre is a perfect fit for the NT. The NT cotton industry is looking to grow in the future, which will bring other crops into the rotation providing even more options for broadacre farming. The other shining stars are the pivot irrigated crops of Lucerne and Rhodes hay. This can be a lucrative standalone operation but also a very beneficial fodder supplement for the cattle herd.
Tropical fruit is powering along in the Top End with export markets being developed across commodities to a range of countries. Alternatives for out of spec fruit, like shelf stable products, are being explored to provide a home for otherwise un-marketable fruit.
Primary producers have a responsibility to the land they farm. The cotton industry has taken the lead on developing sustainability frameworks and remnant vegetation targets. The NT by legislative default has shown itself to be far and away more environmentally responsible than other parts of the world, including Europe. Consumers are beginning to demand sustainably grown products, this is something NT primary producers could use to their advantage.