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We all prayed for the end of 2020 with the same enthusiasm that we prayed for the rains to come

And with the dawn of 2021 there is a new-found optimism to what the future holds for the pastoral sector. Life on the land is always a challenge. We never have a Goldilocks moment where it is all just right.

When it rains it is either too heavy or too light or not in the right spot. It is a fact of life. But it is also what makes the resilience of those on the land so good. What doesn’t happen today may happen tomorrow.

In 2021 the Northern Territory pastoral sector has the platform and the ability to be a powerhouse for not only the Territory economy but the Australian economy in a way those attracting all the attention can’t be.

Interest in the pastoral sector has never been stronger and with the right regulatory environment we will see this translate into even more investment. There has never been a shortage of investment and the flurry of interest in properties on the market is the clearest demonstration of that.

Property values, like beef prices, have rarely been higher. The underlying interest is based on what can be delivered. The established markets of South-East Asia, like Indonesia and the incredibly exciting growth market of Vietnam are proving the benefit of market diversification and live export.

The live export trade to Vietnam specifically holds an exciting opportunity in 2021. Producers in Central Australia are sending cattle to Vietnam. The challenge is being able to enter the market at the right price point to maximise the return on investment.

This is in stark contrast to other sectors where attracting investment dollars can be challenging. There are any number of major projects in the Territory that are at that final investment decision stage still waiting on money to kick start the opportunity.

The success of the Northern Territory rebounding out of the economic hole it found itself in leading up to and including 2020 will revolve around the pastoral estate. The report A Step Change To Win Investment and Create Jobs by the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission acknowledges the importance of maximising the benefits of the pastoral estate. For producers that is a positive and a negative.

Foregoing an established foundation of the Territory economy for promises on the horizon cannot be allowed to occur. Instead, it must be the subject of investment and nurturing to ensure that the market opportunities, which include increasing live export and beef product exports by an additional $13 billion between now and 2030, can be achieved.

The pastoral sector actively supports and encourages diversification of the pastoral estate for agriculture.

The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association argues for streamlined approval processes, simpler regulation and investor certainty through land tenure. All of these have been identified in the TERC final report.

The doorway to this occurring will be land access agreements and how co-existence in the Territory can work. The cattle industry in the Territory is a $1 billion industry built providing 10,000 people with jobs directly and indirectly. We cannot allow it to be forgotten in any implementation or blueprint for the TERC report.

If it is not respected as a key economic driver then hardworking pioneer families like the Dyers, whose matriarch Val appears on the front cover of this edition, will be undone and the international trade and relationships built over decades will slowly diminish.

There is no more noble profession than the provision of food generation for others.

In March, the NTCA will hold its annual conference in Alice Springs. These and many other issues will be canvassed. The issues of adoption, sustainability, land tenure security will all appear.

It is the annual opportunity for the cattle industry to come together collectively, reflect and plan on what is ahead. The future for the pastoral sector is bright in 2021 and beyond.