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Changing Rural Spaces: deregulation and the decline of tobacco farming in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation Area, Far North Queensland

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The growing of tobacco was one of the most tightly regulated industries in Australia, until deregulation in 1995. Commonwealth regulations controlled the area cultivated with tobacco, the number of growers (i.e. quota holders) and marketing arrangements for tobacco leaf. This paper begins by outlining the nature and historical development of controls in the tobacco-growing industry, and discusses how the Commonwealth government removed the industry's regulatory and protective framework in 1995. The third part of the paper examines how deregulation has impacted upon the Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation Area, Far North Queensland, where small farmers produced 60 per cent of Australia's tobacco in 1995. The discussion will show that the agricultural landscape once dominated by tobacco has been transformed, as local farmers abandoned growing tobacco in favour of sugar cane, avocadoes, mangoes, macadamia nuts and other small vegetable crops (e.g. navy beans, pumpkins). Tobacco, once promoted by the Queensland government as a crop to facilitate closer settlement in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation Area, will have almost vanished from the landscape by 2002.
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Keywords: AVOCADOES; DEREGULATION; MAREEBA-DIMBULAH IRRIGATION AREA; MIXED HORTICULTURE; SUGAR CANE; TOBACCO

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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