There will be no Australian wheat industry in 23 years time.

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Chapman Valley. Northern wheat belt Western Australia. The Garden of Eden.

 

In the last issue of the Global Farmer I discussed the need for change based on a strategic plan for the behemoth called Australian agriculture. It is not possible to look at the whole until the parts have been examined.
To start with the wheat industry is logical and relevant considering this is the time of year to review last year and make plans for and give a commitment to the next season and beyond.

The headline says it all, based on current trends, the wheat industry in Australia will be gone in twenty three years. If you are having difficulty in trying to remember what was going on in Australian agriculture twenty three years ago, it was five years after the wool price crash and we were all being told to get rid of our world beating merino sheep. That is how close we are to the demise of the Australian wheat industry. It won’t happen like the wool crash, for those who refuse to recognise the signs it will be a slow, painful and imposed exit.

Continue reading “There will be no Australian wheat industry in 23 years time.”

Global area under biotech continues to grow while EU policy struggles.

While the EU struggles to define its policy on the cultivation of GM crops, the area under GM varieties globally continues to grow. Recent data from the ISAAA show that the total global area planted to biotech crop varieties in 2013 reached 175 million hectares for the first time. As 1996 was the first year in which genetically-modified crops were commercialised on a significant scale (the first GM crop planted was tomatoes in 1994), supporters of the technology point out that this rate of expansion makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history.

While the EU struggles to define its policy on the cultivation of GM crops, the area under GM varieties globally continues to grow. Recent data from the ISAAA show that the total global area planted to biotech crop varieties in 2013 reached 175 million hectares for the first time. As 1996 was the first year in which genetically-modified crops were commercialised on a significant scale (the first GM crop planted was tomatoes in 1994), supporters of the technology point out that this rate of expansion makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent history.

Of the 27 countries which planted biotech crops in 2013, 19 were developing and 8 were industrialised countries. Latin American, Asian and African farmers collectively grew 94 million hectares or 54% of the global 175 million biotech hectares compared with industrialised countries at 81 million hectares or 46% of the total.image003

Just four major GM crops dominate the market: soybean, cotton, maize and canola (rape). In terms of the share of the total area cultivated, soybean and cotton are the most successful GM crops. In 2012, more than four-fifths (81%) of the total area of these crops grown globally were GM varieties. In the case of maize, over a third (35%) of the 158 million hectares of globally grown maize was GM and 30% of globally grown canola (with a total area of 31 million hectares). Continue reading “Global area under biotech continues to grow while EU policy struggles.”

COSTS UP – PRICES NERVOUS – TIME FOR CHANGE?

Here we are at the start of a bright new 2014. Some Western Australian grain growers had a good harvest in 2013, but some still have plenty of debt and some have left the industry. It seems we are experiencing another period of adverse terms of trade as the economists would put it, or at cost-price squeeze as most of us understand it. But this situation has existed in one form or another since the 1980s and the industry has adjusted greatly to stay viable.

Let’s look at a little history. In the late 80s and early 90s the state average wheat yield virtually doubled from just under 1t/ha to just under 2t/ha. So how did that happen? Well, the cost-price squeeze was instrumental in focusing the minds of farmers mightily. They knew that something had to be done and furthermore they knew what. All the relevant findings were known, either through local research or through hard-won experience and observation.

The average date of sowing was advanced by about 3 weeks aided by the availability of the appropriate chemicals, semi-dwarf varieties and reduced or zero tillage among other things. At the same time the percentage of the crop that received a premium for quality (Hard, Noodle, Soft, APW) was increased from about 15% to over 50%. Continue reading “COSTS UP – PRICES NERVOUS – TIME FOR CHANGE?”