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Queensland irrigators welcome water efficiency funding

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Dairy, Horticulture, Livestock, Produce

QUEENSLAND’S irrigated agriculture industries will benefit from continued productivity improvements and responsible management of water thanks to the State Government investing another $2 million in a critically important program. The 2017-18 Rural Water Use Efficiency Initiative (RWUEI) will provide grants and assistance for farmers across a number of industries to help with keeping water on-farm and also meeting natural resource management outcomes. Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) President, Stuart Armitage, welcomed the continuation of funding for RWUEI, but expressed the sector’s concern over funding uncertainty post 2017-18 with farmers being subject to increasing water-use challenges from climate change. “Queensland irrigators have been subject to and continue to implement wide-scale reform to water use that has seen structural adjustments in the irrigation sector. This has included significant capital investments by farmers and the adoption of water saving infrastructure and practices, and the importance of metering,” said Mr. Armitage. “Farmers understand the simple economic benefits that come from minimising costs, increasing efficiencies and improving productivity. “Governments must accept and acknowledge the role of irrigated agriculture in supplying food, fibre, foliage and increasingly fuel; and the income it generates, particularly in regional communities post 2017-18. “For an efficient and viable agricultural sector in Queensland …

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Banana industry weighs-in on nation’s health

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture, Produce

THE NATION’S banana growers will soon be ‘a-peeling’ to Aussie families around a sizeable issue, as the industry gears up to launch one of its boldest marketing campaigns yet. Set to kick off on Fathers’ Day this Sunday, the inaugural Weight Check 2017 initiative aims to get dads, and all Australians, to better understand their current weight and take action towards living a healthier life by utilising a handy online tool. By stepping on the scales and registering their weight at www.weightcheck.com.au, participants will be able to find out how they measure on the Body Mass Index scale and learn their projected weight creep into the future if they do not manage their weight. In preparation for the massive campaign, growers from Carnarvon in Western Australia and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales have sent the industry’s promotional ‘Benny Banana’ costumes to Sydney to appear at select train stations, on national television, social media and other locations. Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the banana industry identified Weight Check 2017 as an ideal marketing investment opportunity. “Bananas are the non-stop energy snack, so it made sense for us to partner with SP Health to deliver this creative campaign to help …

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Balanced land use laws can benefit FNQ cropping

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Produce

HIGH VALUE crops could become a key feature of the agricultural landscape in Far North Queensland, and the vision of a ‘northern food bowl’ could be fully realised, if the Palaszczuk Government was willing to back balanced and sensible land use laws. AgForce General President, Grant Maudsley, said the Premier’s visit to the Far North this week was the ideal opportunity to follow-up her words of support for agricultural exports like chick peas with real action by abandoning plans to re-introduce flawed vegetation management laws. “The latest Census data shows Queensland is now the leading agricultural state in the country, and we can grow even more with the right policy settings from governments,” he said. “There is enormous potential for high-value cropping opportunities in the Far North, as recent trials of sorghum, maize, rice and sesame at Olive Vale Station, near Laura, have demonstrated. “These developments mean more jobs for local people, particularly local Indigenous people, and it could also lead to value adding opportunities for the northern beef industry and a more integrated livestock and agribusiness supply chain. “However, high-value agriculture clearing permits would be banned if the Palaszczuk Government re-introduces harsh and unnecessary vegetation management restrictions. “It begs …

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Australia seeking to capitalise on quinoa superfood trend

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Produce

Surging global popularity of the ‘superfood’ quinoa has put the plant front and centre of new research by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) as part of the Corporations New and Emerging Industries R&D program. QUINOA is a gluten-free carbohydrate containing all of the essential amino acids, and is a great cooking ingredient. In response to the growing interest in quinoa, RIRDC-funded research has explored opportunities and challenges related to quinoa production and marketing systems across the country to better inform growers of the crop’s potential. New resources have been developed to share insight into the suitability of quinoa to Australian cropping systems. Yield variability and developing the supply chain are the important challenges the new industry needs to address. The new book Quinoa – Opportunities and Challenges in Australia and associated fact sheet are designed as a reference for farmers and processors. By collating available information, farmers and processors will be able to make informed decisions in light of current industry understanding and practices. RIRDC New and Emerging Industries Program Manager, Duncan Farquhar, said quinoa is an exciting example of a rural industry that has potential to make a strong economic contribution to Australian agriculture. “RIRDC’s New and Emerging …

Amazon’s organic problem for farmers

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture, Markets, Produce

GLOBAL TECH GIANT Amazon’s expansion into food retailing has wowed the financial markets, but is a real problem for farmers. In the USA, the online retailer Amazon (worth $US470 billion) has bought Wholefoods for $US13.7 billion to accelerate its move into food retailing. Big dollars for an average investor, but just a minor side bet for Amazon. That caused the share price of Woolworths and Coles to slide in Australia because Amazon is stirring the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane industrial shed market, buying-up huge distribution centres for their move into Australia. The financial market experts are all excited about the possible disruption to our grocery market, with predictions of drones delivering fresh produce to the front door of urban consumers. And Amazon/Wholefoods is particularly aimed at organic foods. The hipsters can hardly hold their pants up. But, and this is just a very practical, down to earth ‘but’, what about the farmers and food producers and packers and manufacturers? When Aldi last year started its push into fresh produce, it caused a stir in the produce markets and supply chains. And they are a minnow compared to Amazon’s financial firepower and market ambitions. A further complication is that Amazon, in …

HAVE YOUR SAY: Lending practices as they pertain to primary production

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Cotton, Current News, Dairy, Horticulture, Livestock, Produce, Sugar

A SENATE SELECT Committee on Lending to Primary Production Customers was established on February 16 to inquire and report on the regulation and practices of financial institutions in relation to primary production industries, including agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Committee Membership consists of: Chair: Senator Malcolm Roberts, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Deputy Chair: Senator John Williams, The Nationals, NSW Member: Senator Chris Back, Liberal Party of Australia, WA Member: Senator Anthony Chisholm, Australian Labor Party, Qld Member: Senator Jane Hume, Liberal Party of Australia, Vic Member: Senator Claire Moore, Australian Labor Party, Qld Terms of Reference will have particular reference to: The lending, and foreclosure and default practices, including constructive and non-monetary default processes; The roles of other service providers to, and agents of, financial institutions, including valuers and insolvency practitioners, and the impact of these services; The appropriateness of internal complaints handling and dispute management procedures within financial institutions; and The appropriateness of loan contract terms particular to the primary production industries, including loan-to-value ratios and provision of reasonable written notice. The committee has also resolved that: In conducting the inquiry, the committee will not investigate, or seek to resolve or adjudicate disputes between customers, banks or other parties; and …

Ensuring consumers get the fruit and veg they pay for

Colin Jackson Horticulture, Produce

A NEW CAMPAIGN launched by the National Measurement Institute (NMI) will help buyers and sellers get value for money as Australian fruit and vegetables make their way from the farm gate to the table. The NMI’s ‘Harvest to Home’ trade measurement inspection program will run until June, and involve oversight by NMI inspectors of the weighing, packaging and selling of fruit and vegetables throughout their journey from paddock to plate. The program will include: Visits to 1,400 traders, ranging from producers to wholesalers and retailers; Testing 1,700 measuring instruments; Inspecting 11,000 lines of packaged goods; Making 200 ‘secret shopper’ trial purchases. “We want to make sure that everyone involved in the fruit and vegetable industry, from importers and farmers to retailers, is aware of their rights and obligations under trade measurement laws,” General Manager for Legal Metrology at NMI, Bill Loizides, said. “Each year in Australia, fruit and vegetables are moved from importers and farms to our homes in millions of measurement-based transactions. In fact, around five million tonnes of produce are bought and sold each year. “Whether you’re a farmer, a wholesaler or a consumer, accurate measurement is vital to support trade, ensure fair competition among businesses, and give …

Tackle obesity with more R&D for veggies 

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture, Produce, Reader's Views

FOR AN INNOVATIVE and agile nation, why do we try to tackle obesity with sugar tax and media campaigns rather than invest more R&D on fruit and vegetable production and logistics? But President Trump may, inadvertently, drive major investment to put more and better quality “ten serves of fruit and veggies” on consumers’ tables. For all the health advice that we need to eat more fruit and veggies to tackle western society’s obesity problem, the amount invested in R&D in fruit and veggies has been declining in Australia and, until recently, in the USA from where we get a lot of our technology and seed strains. This is where we will get more and better quality fruit and veggies, rather than all those cute stories about growing veggies on urban footpaths or in high rise buildings. Most agricultural R&D globally and in Australia goes into grains, largely because it is broadacre, involves big seed sales for multinationals, and has better data as an internationally tradable commodity. Productivity shows this: since 1920, six times as much corn is grown per hectare, but lettuce production has only doubled. The baseline of vegetable research is a book called AH-66, produced in 1954 by …

Vegetable farm financial survey enters its tenth year

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture, Produce

THE AUSTRALIAN Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has begun the tenth Australian vegetable-growing industry survey, to gather information to help Australia’s $3.4 billion vegetable growing industry manage challenges and plan for the future. The survey will collect data about production, financial performance and socio-economic characteristics of approximately 300 vegetable-growing farms, as part of ABARES’ ongoing research into how the industry adapts to changing environmental and market factors. Acting Executive Director of ABARES, Peter Gooday, today encouraged growers to participate in the important initiative. “It is essential that both industry and government have accurate information to ensure research and development initiatives are effectively targeted,” Mr Gooday said. “ABARES’ field collectors will conduct face-to-face interviews with growers, collecting information on vegetable production types, business receipts and costs, labour use, debts and assets. “All information provided will remain confidential and survey findings will not identify individuals or their businesses. “The results provide a national and state-by-state picture of the vegetable-growing industry, and highlights its importance to the Australian economy.” ABARES conducts the vegetable-growing farm survey annually. It is co-funded by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited. The 2017 survey is expected to be …

Job creating rail project a ‘game changer’ for Queensland grains industry

Colin Jackson Current News, Produce

HUNDREDS of construction jobs will be created and more than 20,000 trucks will be taken off regional roads as a result of a proposed grains industry project that could secure the viability of the agricultural rail network in Queensland for decades to come. GrainCorp and AgForce are joining together to call on the Queensland Government to invest $11 million towards a $52 million project to construct two new state-of-the-art grain handling facilities and upgrade the rail freight network in southern and central Queensland. AgForce Grains President, Wayne Newton, said Queensland just had a record winter crop valued at more than $700 million, but Queensland’s grain growers could fall behind other states and miss out on export opportunities this year and into the future because of the poor performance of rail freight. “Transport makes up more than a third of growers’ cost of production so, for our grains industry to be globally competitive, we need to be able to get our product to port as efficiently as possible,” he said. “About 90 per cent of our grain exports used to get to port on train, but now it’s only about 50 per cent, despite the fact rail is more efficient — …

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Countdown to Foreign Fairness

Colin Jackson Cotton, Current News, Dairy, Horticulture, Livestock, Produce, Sugar

THIS WEEK is a countdown to fairness of foreign-owned companies to farmers — Australian farmers in a week that includes Australia Day. Agalert will bring a series of stories, facts and political responses to this issue through the week. While the issue is centred on whether Singaporean giant Wilmar will offer a fair deal to sugar cane farmers, the issue affects all farmers. The beef, sheep (meat and wool), grains, oilseeds, fruit and vegetable processing sectors in Australia are all largely foreign-owned. Most have bought existing facilities developed by Australian companies and farmer co-ops. Their investment is not largely to build new facilities, but to control markets and eventually pricing and premium branding profits. This is the test — one that the Foreign Investment Review Board (or certainly their chairman merchant banker, Brian Wilson) has studiously avoided analysing in any depth. Are the foreign owners just using their market power (globally and in Australia) as political lobbying muscle to increase the proportion of Australian agriculture that goes to the processor and marketer — and reduce the proportion going to growers. Some have tried and been caught-out to date. Wilmar is the most blatant in trashing decades of fair split of …

Pictures on this page were taken by Col Jackson at World Expo 2015 in Milano, Italy, and attended by some of the poorest countries in the world. Sadly, Australia was not represented.
Pictures on this page were taken by Col Jackson at World Expo 2015 in Milano, Italy, and attended by some of the poorest countries in the world. The theme was "feeding the planet, energy for life." Sadly, Australia was not represented.

Unique product exports can boost poorest countries

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Produce

Geneva, 9 December 2016 HIGH IN the Himalayas between India and Tibet lies the ancient kingdom of Bhutan, one of the world’s most remote nations. Trade is difficult for this landlocked country, which relies on sales of hydro-electro power to India for more than 40 per cent of its exports. But its high-altitude environment endowed Bhutan with a wealth of natural wonders, including a crop that grows virtually nowhere else — Bhutanese red rice The ruby-red grain is cultivated some 2,400 meters above sea level in valleys irrigated with 1,000-year-old glacier water, rich in minerals. And Bhutan is not alone. Many of the world’s other 47 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) also possess unique foodstuffs that could find lucrative export markets. “Natural, heritage products, if protected and marketed well, could become a bigger source of revenue for many LDCs,” UNCTAD expert Stefano Inama said. “Many of these countries are dangerously dependent on commodity exports and must diversify their economies.” A new UNCTAD report, launched on December 12, discovered a wealth of irreplaceable products waiting for better organised commercialisation such as unusual coffee varieties and aromatic volcanic honey from Ethiopia, salted mullet roe from Mauritania, and goat meat from Mozambique. A key …

CBH plans ‘emergency’ storage in face of bumper Aussie grains harvest

Colin Jackson Produce

(AgriMoney, Tuesday, July 26, 2016) CBH Group, Australia’s biggest grain exporter, revealed it was building “emergency” storage capacity to deal with a 2016 harvest which could prove the strongest ever, helped by a timely moisture for spring sowings. The co-operative — which handles the vast majority of the grains harvest in Western Australia, Australia’s top wheat growing state — said it was to construct 400,000 tonnes in short-term storage capacity, on top of site enhancements being enacted during a scheduled $A750m maintenance and upgrade programs. The decision comes amid expectations of a “bumper year” for the state’s gain growers, with the current crop estimates sitting at between 14m and 16m tonnes, potentially eclipsing the current all-time high of 15.9m tonnes set three years ago. Abares, the official Australian commodities bureau, has forecast the state achieving a harvest of some 15.5m tonnes this year, a rise of more than 800,000 tonnes year on year, including 513,000 tonnes of lupins, besides major crops such as barley, canola and wheat. The upbeat prospects reflect unusually strong rainfall in Western Australia, which has a history of patchy moisture, getting crops off to strong start. Indeed, in some areas, rainfall has proved somewhat excessive. David Capper, …