Tough time for crops

Shepparton News - Country News - - NEWS -

Grains Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion’s South­ern Panel chair John Ben­nett said grow­ers were at a piv­otal point in the sea­son when it came to de­cid­ing whether to con­tinue with grow­ing their crops or cut­ting them for hay.

Mr Ben­nett spoke to Coun­try News at Nu­murkah’s GrainCorp site as part of the group’s an­nual spring tour and said the dry con­di­tions were mak­ing it tricky for grow­ers.

‘‘The dry is hav­ing a big ef­fect in Vic­to­ria and it’s ac­tu­ally creep­ing south as well,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m notic­ing in the last cou­ple of weeks peo­ple have had the prospects of a slightly lessthan-av­er­age sea­son.

‘‘They’ve seen their crops ac­tu­ally go­ing back­wards so a lot of peo­ple are ac­tu­ally con­sid­er­ing cut­ting their crop for hay, es­pe­cially with the fod­der de­mand be­cause the fod­der re­serves have been de­pleted over the last 12 months.’’

Mr Ben­nett ex­plained why the group was trav­el­ling through the area.

‘‘The idea is that the GRDC pan­els job is to pro­vide rel­e­vant re­search and ac­tu­ally cap­ture the ideas and is­sues as well as rep­re­sent­ing farm­ers,’’ he said.

‘‘So for us it’s en­gag­ing with farm­ers in their own pad­dock, es­pe­cially with panel mem­bers com­ing from the Eyre Penin­sula and Tas­ma­nia.

‘‘So it’s a good thing to come to the north and see what is­sues ac­tu­ally af­fect farm­ers in the north-east.

‘‘It’s a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally. We’ve come to lis­ten, we have come to see whether our in­vest­ments are ac­tu­ally work­ing, to see what we can do bet­ter, and what are the cur­rent is­sues?

‘‘I think we are right in that piv­otal pe­riod at the mo­ment where we’ve got frost, we’ve got lack of mois­ture and crops are ac­tu­ally go­ing back­wards and I think we are in that piv­otal pe­riod where a lot of crop might turn into hay and yields will go back quite dra­mat­i­cally too.

‘‘So it’s re­ally a dif­fi­cult time to es­ti­mate crop yields.’’

Mr Ben­nett said the cur­rent dry con­di­tions re­minded him of re­cent years where he lived.

‘‘We’ve had a num­ber of these years in my part of the world in western Vic­to­ria,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve had 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2015, so it’s noth­ing new.

‘‘I would cer­tainly draw a sim­i­lar­ity with a num­ber of those years we’ve had in the last decade.’’

The group also vis­ited Uni­ver­sity of Mel­bourne’s Dookie Cam­pus as part of the spring tour.

, by agribusi­ness bank­ing spe­cial­ist Rabobank, says this shift from a tra­di­tional bulk grain-han­dling net­work to a more dis­ag­gre­gated and flex­i­ble de­liv­ery sys­tem is tak­ing place on the farm with in­creased on-farm stor­age and also at port, with di­rect load­ing, con­tainer­ised grain ex­ports and newer bulk ter­mi­nal ex­port ca­pac­ity.

De­scrib­ing it as ‘‘de-bulk­ing’’, Rabobank se­nior grains and oilseeds an­a­lyst Cheryl Kalisch Gor­don said the shift to in­vest­ing in stor­age and han­dling al­ter­na­tives was al­ready well un­der way, with the process ac­cel­er­ated by ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion in the bulk grain-han­dling net­work.

While this ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion — in­clud­ing clo­sure of up-coun­try re­ceival sites, re­place­ment of mul­ti­ple smaller or dated si­los with sin­gle larger si­los, and the up­grade and ex­pan­sion of cen­tralised sites — de­liv­ered ef­fi­ciency gains with greater ca­pac­ity util­i­sa­tion, Dr Kalisch Gor­don said it could re­duce the abil­ity of the bulk-han­dling sys­tem to seg­re­gate grain.

‘‘On the one hand, there is the op­tion for farm busi­nesses to ‘avoid bulk’ by in­vest­ing in on-farm stor­age to re­spond to higher-value end mar­kets,’’ she said.

‘‘Or, they can in­vest in ef­fi­ciency gains to de­liver into the high-vol­ume, low­mar­gin in­ter­na­tional grains mar­ket via the bulk-han­dling net­work.’’

Ei­ther way, both of these al­ter­na­tives re­quired on-farm in­vest­ment, she said.

‘‘But there is real op­por­tu­nity for grain mar­keters and bulk han­dlers to work with grain farm­ers and be part of the new in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions.’’

The re­port said struc­tural changes on­farm and at ex­port ports were also re­sult­ing in the move­ment of some grain sup­ply out of bulk-han­dling net­works.

‘‘On-farm ca­pac­ity, in sealed stor­age, is cur­rently sit­ting around 17 to 18 mil­lion tonnes, or the equiv­a­lent to 37 per cent of the to­tal Aus­tralian win­ter and sum­mer crop,’’ Dr Kalisch Gor­don said.

‘‘With more farm­ers an­tic­i­pated to en­gage in their own, longer mar­ket­ing pro­grams, the blend­ing of grain, and with the in­ter­est in pulses and spe­cial­ity crops con­tin­u­ing to grow, we fore­cast as much as 20 mil­lion tonnes of on-farm stor­age will be in use by 2025.’’

Hard choices . . . GRDC South­ern Panel chair John Ben­nett says the cur­rent crop­ping sea­son is at a crit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing point.

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