Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Research to Boost Water Recycling in South Australia

Australia is a dry continent, and with climate change, expected to get drier, in general.

Boosting use of recycled water in agriculture is a critical part of the equation as water efficiency becomes critical and squeezing more out of each litre of water becomes a  more normal issue in Australia.  Israel already boasts of getting at least two uses out of each litre of water.......Australia is a long way behind that claim.

But some recently funded research is at least examining options to boost recycled water use while managing salt, a critical problem in drier areas of Australia, although not so important in the wetter areas of the north......we do not even do much water recycling, and some utilities seem to not care much about water recycling with the PAWC in the NT one of the worst in Australia with very low percentages of effluent recycled.

Maybe if this new research shows promise we shall all be drinking wine made from grapes grown in McLaren Vale on recycled wastewater.

The new research to expand the use of water recycling for irrigating South Australia’s vineyards has been initiated by the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence.

Led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) at the Waite Institute, and co-funded by the Goyder Institute for Water Research, the project is collaborating with the local viticulture industry and the University of Adelaide to demonstrate the economic and environmental value of water recycling to Australia’s agrifood industry.
In announcing the project, Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence CEO Dr Mark O’Donohue said the security of water supply is an ongoing concern for producers of horticulture crops.

“Recycled water can provide a secure, climate-resilient water supply for many agricultural areas of Australia. This project will contribute to a growing body of knowledge about how to incorporate the use of recycled water into a variety of irrigation regimes,” said Dr O’Donohue.
Project investigator Tim Pitt, from SARDI, said, “The project involves crops being watered under very precise irrigation systems and looks at how to mitigate the salt content of recycled water by diluting it with fresh rainwater. We will be applying recycled water to vineyards in the McLaren Vale [region] and to almond orchards on the Northern Adelaide Plains.”

The trials at a McLaren Vale vineyard, owned by Treasury Wine Estates, will test whether redirecting rainfall - from raised soil mounds built between the vines to soil directly under vines irrigated with recycled water - reduces the build-up of salt. Preliminary studies indicate that redirecting rainfall run-off to drip lines can reduce the salt content in vine leaves and grapes by 20 to 30%.
The almond orchard trials will use mixtures of recycled water and freshwater to identify the most salt-sensitive growth stages of almonds. Such knowledge will have value to producers, water utilities and policy makers trying to maximise the use of recycled water in agribusiness. “We will also assess how the changing concentrations of salt, in the various soils being assessed, affect plant response in terms of vigour, yield and crop quality,” said Pitt.

Based on the success of the trials, the horticulture industry could expand its use of recycled water schemes for precision crop irrigation in other dry regions and improve management of soil salinity.
This is very clever - crafty use of both commodities of water with the more precious fresher water being used to help flush salt through the system, especially near the rootzone along the row.
It matches work that has shown that organic mulches in the rootzone along the row also improve production and reduce water use.
Combining these two factors could lift water use efficiency quite significantly in wine grape areas.

In our region near Darwin, neither of the two issues - quality production and use of organic residuals in horticulture [ but some goes into home gardens] nor effluent recycling and reuse are widely used.
Yet, we have 35 - 40 weeks each year without rain, where irrigation must be used in both urban and rural areas including horticulture, to enable growth of plants.  Most of that is supplied from groundwater, with an annual recharge the next rainy season, in most areas.  But many have some ancedotal evidence that water tables are declining.
Could we do better?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Agriculture in Australia needs to get Tough - or Does It?

This will get you to the original as published in the online edition of Qld Country Life, which was however copied from the AFR [ which is paywalled].

The headline was Ag needs to Get Tough""
11 Mar, 2013 09:03 AM
BY 2020, Ken Henry says, Asia's middle class will have more than trebled in size to 1.7 billion people. By 2030 it will have almost doubled again, and it will account for 60 per cent of global middle class consumption. With that growth will come an increase in demand for the kind of food we produce and eat.

Martin Parkinson, Henry's successor as Treasury secretary, says the next positive shock wave from Asia will be felt by Australian agriculture.  "We're likely to see a significant increase in demand, particularly from China, for high-end agricultural products like fruit, dairy, high-grade meat and seafood," he says.  This will be a huge opportunity for farmers, investors and the economy.  But to fully capitalise on a boom you have to be able to meet the demand, and ABARES says we will need a change in agricultural production to do it.

First, it says, we have to reverse the slowdown in farm productivity, which for broadacre farming has been negative for the past decade. We also need to better target consumer needs in fast-growing markets, especially Asia.

Reviving productivity growth will be harder than it looks. Productivity has been negative temporarily because of droughts, but there has also been a more permanent slowdown.

Broadacre and dairy productivity was boosted by the major reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, including the dismantling of statutory marketing and price support schemes, labour market reforms and the phasing out of tariffs on imported agricultural products.  There were also big improvements in technology, including larger, more efficient sowing and harvesting machines, and greater automation and mechanisation of dairy production.  These advances, in turn, led to industry consolidation and an increase in average farm sizes.

But it seems the big gains from these changes have been largely realised, and an acceleration of productivity growth will require new drivers.  So where do we find them?

The opposition's Andrew Robb would suggest the northern food bowl. However, that is not on ABARES's to-do list, possibly because the idea has already been expertly examined and rejected.

The Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce reported in 2009 that "contrary to popular belief, water resources in the north are neither unlimited, nor wasted. Equally, the potential for northern Australia to become a 'food bowl' is not supported by evidence."  Robb, who is heading a federal Coalition taskforce to reassess the merits of the food bowl proposal, insists that there is "a patchwork of opportunities right across the north" that, with "sensible water catchment", could double Australia's agricultural production.

With rising global food prices, there are almost certainly development opportunities in the north that would justify their environmental and other social costs. But an election-year Coalition task force is not the mechanism to find them.

What the federal opposition should promise is a Productivity Commission inquiry to re-evaluate the issue.

In the absence of Robb's economic miracle, ABARES warns productivity growth will have to come from on-farm innovation and advances in plant and animal genetics, and technologies that enable better farm management and increase energy and water efficiency.

State moratoriums on the commercial release of genetically modified crops have limited private sector investment, and ABARES makes a plea for transparent and evidence-based decision-making by the states.

Genetically modified food crops are being adopted overseas, including in the United States, Canada, China, Argentina and Brazil, and have the potential to transform agricultural productivity in Australia. Unfortunately, there seems to be no task force of federal politicians ready to take on that battle.

ABARES also argues that reduced government spending on agricultural research and development since the 1970s has contributed to the slowdown in farm productivity growth. That decline in funding should be reversed.

But there is more than the politicians can, and should, do.

There is scope for further gains from farm rationalisation. The Productivity Commission states the 20 per cent of most-efficient broadacre farms accounted for nearly two-thirds of total production in 2005. The remaining 80 per cent of farms produced only 36 per cent of output.

Drought should naturally force the rationalisation of the farm sector into larger, geographically diversified enterprises. However, governments have allowed drought relief to preserve economically inefficient operators.

Another useful agent of change should be foreign investment. And given the need for the agricultural sector to target consumers in Asia, corporate investors from China should be particularly useful.  That is not how some farmers see it, of course. But when all the emotive nonsense about Chinese investment is stripped away, their real concern seems to be that Chinese investment will excessively bid up the price of farm land and reduce the opportunity for the next generation of Australian farmers to carry on the family farms.

There might be some truth in that, but it is in Australia's interests for small farms to be replaced by larger corporate producers.

If agriculture is the next big thing, Australia cannot afford to protect undersized, under-capitalised, overgrazed family farms from the economic pressures of the global food market.

If anything, the federal government should increase the pressure on unprofitable farmers to get off the land, and it should demand that the states do the same. For example, grazing leases on Crown land should be put on a proper, arm's-length commercial basis, and producers who cannot manage their leases at a profit should be pushed out, just as a retail centre owner expels unsuccessful retailers.

In the case of the Crown leases in Queensland's Upper Burdekin, the benefits of such a policy would extend beyond agriculture to tourism.

According to the Productivity Commission, most of the sediments, nitrogen and phosphorous that wash into Great Barrier Reef lagoon come from cattle grazing, and a big part of the problem is overstocking by graziers who are fundamentally unviable or who have succumbed to the moral hazard of drought relief. "


Reader comments were vehement that this was a load of codswallop.  But some issues do require a more detailed examination.

Yes, Australian agriculture needs capital, but most think that should not be a selling off of the farm to sovereign entitities without any real need to be accountable for the product and the offshoring of the profits, and job replacement with foreign staff.

Many are also wary of large corporate operators with remote control, and they have not always been that successful, while some larger locally owned properties are.  There is also a place for smaller operators with specialised production [ and who can grow or encourage others into an industry], and truly, that might be a very profitable area with a number of classic operations noted - quinoa production in Tasmania as well as chia in the Ord River area.  There will be others.  One concept does not fit all!

As regards crown leases - well, it could be a pandora's box if enterprise change is envisaged as it can open these to land claim.  And that coud be a protracted event, and overall unproductive in the meantime.

The decline in agricultural R and D is a key issue, and there are a few tiny signs there may be some glimmer of change with recent large investments in several key centres in NSW and SA.  But there is little happening in the north, and with live cattle exports screwed, this will take some time to reverse.  Almost no public entity is increasing investment in this sort of r and D in the north of Australaia.

Export of chilled and frozen beef to some markets will increase, but it is unlikely Australia will improve beef sales - live or processed - to Indonesia anytime soon [ think 5 years plus], and that alone is impacting monumentally on pastoral production properties and their value.  There is a role for GM but refer back to the R and D equation........little has been done, and to also raise the performance and quality of varieties, including adapted vegetable crops to warmer regions will take time.

Look at agricultural productivity growth in Brazil - and that has resulted from investing in R and D.  May be we need to plagarise some of this for use in north Australia.  Climatically there are quite a few regions with similarities.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Dwarf Broad Leaf Carpet Grass

Broad leaved carpet grass is a very common turf in tropical Australia, especially in the near all-year round wet zones along the NE coast eg near Cairns or Ingham.

Also sometimes used around Darwin, it is a very shade tolerant turf, and will handle wet, silty soils, provided adequate water is supplied in the dry season.  No irrigaton and it will die out in our region.

But it does grow rapidly, and leaves are quite long, and they can be very susceptible to insect damage, especially army worms, who enjoy the lush growth.

Curiously, there are no cultivars developed - just carpet grass.

However, recently it seems a dwarf variety may have been developed, in of all places, Singapore.

There is a lot of information and some photos, but no variety name - except they call it Pearl Grass.  It is propagated vegetatively, and has featuered on a green roof project as well as some median strips, where obviously low maintenance is important.

While zoysia is common on golf courses and that is very low growing, and can thrive in both low light and low maintenance conditions, it can be slow to establish from sprigs.

I need to know more about this more to come.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Green Roof and Walls

The Elmich Effect -   The Largest Greenwall in the World!!


Elmich Australia

Officially the World’s Largest Greenwall Project - Singapore ITE Headquarters & College Central                                                       

Hats off, to our colleagues at Elmich Singapore, who have just completed the largest greenwall installation, in the world. 

Standing at 35m tall and totaling 5,300 m2, Elmich VGM Green Wall modules transformed the campus walls, both internal and external, into facades of living green vegetation, in-line with the college’s Eco-Initiative to create an environment conducive to learning.

The highly engineered Elmich VGM architectural living wall system uses UV-stabilised plastic modules and stainless steel support brackets and pilasters that enable easy mounting and dismounting of VGMs during installation and maintenance.

Topped off with 2400m2 of Extensive Greenroof

2,400 sq m of roof space, over three campus blocks, was 'Greened' using the Elmich Extensive Greenroof system. VersiDrain 25P® drainage and water retention trays were placed directly over the waterproofing and overlaid with a geotextile and a lightweight engineered growing media. Pearl Grass was selected for its heat tolerance and low maintenance and an automated pop-up irrigation system was installed to ensure abundant growth, maximising the benefits of this greenroof.


While this is actually part of advertising by Elmich, it does show the fantastic green wall and roof developed for this new building complex  in Singapore.

Even more interesting is the new type of grass used for the roof.

Pearl grass [ their term] is actually a dwarf variety of broad leaved carpet grass [ Axonopus compressus] , with broad leaved carpet grass common as a turf in tropical Australia.

Does it have a place in tropical Australia?  I would think it might.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Indonesian Live Cattle trade - A Bubbling Cauldron


A few weeks back the article below appeared in the paper edition of the English language newspaper in Jakarta, The Jakarta Post.  Today it was part of the Queensland Country Life electronic newsletter

Comment has been significant, to both.

It is seen by many sectors as a reasonable comment on the situation.  Almost irrepairable damage has been done to the Australian live export trade, as well as significant damage to the lot feed operations which have been so sucessful around west Java, using often waste or residual horticultural materials.

The damage to the cattle trade is having major ramifications for property prices and financial difficulties including bank foreclosures on cattle stations in the north of Australia.  Awful outcomes.  And yet there seems to be blissful disregard in Australian government areas, pandering as they were to the radical fringes of the animal activists in Australia.  Bad practices there may have been, but is it us as holier than thou outsiders that have a right to dictate another countries slaughter practices using a blunt instrument, rather than more considered methods that did seem to be achieving change?.

Read the original article, now a few weeks old.

Indonesian people victims of war on Australia’s live-cattle export trade
Ross Taylor, Perth, Western Australia | Opinion | Thu, February 28 2013, 11:35 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 6
One of Australia’s most respected and insightful Buddhist leaders, Abbot Ajhan Brahm, once said that the problem with seeking revenge is that you become a “victim of your own war”, in that you can often suffer as much “damage” as the person to whom you are directing your revenge.

It was good advice and something we all, at sometime, have been guilty of intentionally forgetting.

It is also advice that is ironic given that Ajhan Brahm is highly admired and respected in Indonesia, where he holds many seminars and retreats, at a time when Indonesia’s agricultural officials are seeking and carrying-out revenge on Australia’s cattle industry for our appalling handling of the live-cattle export crisis in 2011.

As the Indonesian government recently announced further reductions in the quota for live-cattle from Australia, the cattle industry in Australia continues to slip further into despair with numerous stations now up for sale.

David Farley, managing director of Australian Agricultural Company (AAC) said recently that the reduction in quotas by Indonesia would result in even greater bankruptcies and job losses for an industry already in serious trouble following our government’s impulsive decision to ban the export of live cattle to Indonesia.

The impact of these latest cuts will be dramatic. Prior to the cattle ban being imposed last year, Australia exported in excess of 520,000 head-of-cattle to Indonesia annually. This year the revised annual quota will be reduced to just 230,000.

Notwithstanding the appalling treatment of these animals, Indonesia had every right to feel aggrieved over the handling of this issue. Beef makes up a very important part of the Indonesian diet, and to have the Australian agriculture minister announce a total ban on the export of live-cattle to Indonesia without any consultation with our near neighbor sent shock waves through the entire supply chain and left Indonesian officials and ministers embarrassed and seething.

It also played into the hands of “special interest groups” within Indonesia who have, for many years, looked for a valid reason to kick Australian suppliers out of the lucrative Indonesian meat market.
As a result, Indonesia announced that it intended to become “self sufficient” in live-cattle that can be used for slaughter. This maybe a noble objective but it is also not achievable, and nor is it sensible.

Indonesia has some of the finest horticulture land in the world; rich soils with plenty of rainfall along with warm and humid conditions that allows its people to grow a huge variety of crops and effectively become Asia’s food bowl.

It does not make any sense to turn over pristine food growing land for the purpose of breeding cattle. Those in the cattle industry have known for years that, as the outgoing Western Australia trade director, Martin Newbery said last month, “Australians are the best cattle breeders and Indonesians, the best cattle feeders.” He is right.

For this reason, to have cattle bred in Australia, where we have the land, infrastructure and expertise, then export them to Indonesia where they are placed in feedlots and “bulked-up” not only makes sense, it is almost the prefect supply chain structure whereby all parties win.

The Australian live-cattle trade should be booming on the back of Indonesia’s strong economy and population growth, with the industry being used as a model for the development of other major agricultural partnerships between Australia and Indonesia.

Instead, we now have a relationship that is untrustworthy and fractured, where Indonesia seeks to “payback” Australia for what it did to a trusted friend, whilst simultaneously harming its own supply network and inflicting shortages and increased prices on its own community.

The price of beef at the “wet markets” within Indonesia has effectively doubled since the quota reductions in Australian beef as Indonesia struggles to meet demand from its internal supplies and the black market is booming.

So why does Indonesia now want to reduce the quota of Australian cattle even further?

The answer is complicated but includes Indonesia’s desire to be self-sufficient in beef supply and thus ensure Australia can never again hold Indonesia to ransom by cutting-off a major food supply source without warning.

But there are other more darker reasons behind Indonesia’s actions, including self-interest groups seeking to make enormous profits from such a ban, the rise of nationalism and a distrust in some quarters of Australia’s agenda in developing the much lauded Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that will provide both countries opportunities to develop far greater business and trade opportunities.

What is even more disturbing however, is that Australia’s agriculture minister, Joe Ludwig, seems helpless in addressing this progression into mutual economic self-harm at a time when Indonesia-Australia government relations are said to be at an all time high.

Here in Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is nearing the end of his term. This is unfortunate timing for both countries as SBY has a deep and warm respect for Australia, but internally, many Indonesians view SBY as a president who has already “run his race” and perhaps what we are now seeing is a small taste of things to come as Indonesia heads towards electing a new president in 2014.

There exists significant opportunities for our two countries to work together to build extensive and mutually beneficial partnerships as we move into “The Asian Century”.

The live-cattle export industry should have been an example of how we can develop these partnerships, yet sadly this industry has become an example of what can go terribly wrong when international diplomacy is conducted “on the run” by a minister who had little understanding of Indonesia or the extent of the long term opportunities that would be lost as a consequence his impulsive decisions.

Meanwhile, Indonesia continues to remind Australia about what it did and to seek revenge for the shabby treatment from its neighbor; even if this means higher prices and shortages for its own people.

This is one trade outcome where everyone loses. [ my italics and bold]

The writer is chairman of the Western Australia-based Indonesia Institute (Inc) and a former national vice president of the Australia-Indonesia Business Council.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Agricultural Science in Australia – Under Resuscitation?

A big day for Australian agricultural training, research, development, and education – today:  March 6, 2013. 
Maybe,  one of the more important for many years.

Yes, I am an agricultural scientist, suffering from the ignorance of the role we play in agriculture in Australia. Commonly ag scientists have been seen as an easy target for governments over the past 20 years – after all, no votes in the bush.  So, various governments have been radically reducing effort in agriculture with commonly the staff agricultural scientists some of the first to go.  NSW and Queensland have been vivid examples, but SA and Victoria are not far behind.

Yet today, around Australia we see some changes that are coming.  And there are increasingly more jobs available in agriculture.

Prof Mark Adams has been lauding the opening of new facilities, operated in conjunction with several Chinese agricultural science institutions, at Cobbity as part of facilities for Sydney University.  The University of Sydney's $20 million Centre for Carbon, Water and Food, funded by the federal government and the University, will answer this call to develop more scientists, helping to ensure Australia's future sustainability, as well as its potential to act as a regional leader in food production and land management.

In South Australia, probably the largest injection of $$ into agricultural training, staff and new facilities due to $50 million – yes $50 million -  in a total bequest from several donors to boost development at the Waite Institute and related campuses at Roseworthy.   This has been announced on the centenary of the Waite Institute.

Yet, still there is not much happening in north Australia.  Staff have been radically chopped from various facilities and government organisations in Queensland and the NT connected with agriculture and related activities.  Research and Development are suffering most.  Berrimah Farm in the NT, the premier research facility near Darwin is under threat to become a housing estate, as is the AZRI south of Alice Springs, and quite a few facilities in Queensland have been closed as well, including some of particular note with significant facilities and equipment and well reputed staff.  CSIRO agricultural activities continue to retreat to the SE corner of Australia, and staff are leaving.

It is a bit hard to develop much in the north without people to do it, who understand the particular issues based on living and working there.

Yes, Ord Stage 2 in WA is underway, with a Chinese sovereign related company doing the development.  While Australia does need the money to go into agricultural development, do we need to sell off our land to achieve it?  And will there be Australian agricultural scientists working there or Chinese?

Will there be a re-emergence of Agricultural Science in Australia over the next 10 years?............Hopefully.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Drones are Coming - VERY Rapidly

Drones have been a major success in military areas in recent years.  And this success is now rapidly translating into commercial areas.

I wrote a blog some months ago on this topic and even in this brief period, a lot has been happening.

In Australia, regulations are developing although slowly, but aim to minimise rules for low power short range drones, often small quadricopters.  While of some commercial interest, it is larger units that are increasingly of interest commercially, and the area where they potentially pose some airspace problems.

Areas of use include mining and agriculture / pastoral use, ecological studies and remote sensing for R and D purposes, real estate photography......use your imagination!  And of course commercial spying, and related issue including police and related agencies use for traffic monitoring in real time anywhere, survelliance activities, and no doubt customs and border patrols.

Last week the ABC produced another informative article and tv segment on the issue.

Be could be coming to get you.

Read more here - 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Urban Stormwater Management – Smarter Solutions and Better Stormwater Use

While almost no urban sewerage system in Australia is designed to also handle stormwater, as is the case in some older cities, particularly in the USA, the management of stormwater productively is quite a challenge.  With our increasingly hard surfaced cities, the stormwater system has grown, usually channelling away water that previously would have often dissipated within the landscape where it was generated, often even into the ground, or at least nearby.
While there are places around Australia where the stormwater is planned to move and actually recharge local aquifers, with Mawson Lakes near Adelaide a good example, as is some stormwater even around Palmerston, recharging the aquifer under the city in the wet season.  Normally, most stormwater runs off, and is lost to local use.

With about 80% of contaminants on hard surfaces, being moved with the first flush of rain [even more in the tropics with the first break storms of the wet season], colleting that and filtering through land and used by plants is a major and distinct improvement to the quality of stormwater discharged into nearby rivers, creeks and ultimately the harbours and oceans.  Most of the pollutants are remediated by soil borne organisms.
But driving that change is difficult as engineering has dominated how urban stormwater has been managed and the usual method has been pipe, or surface hard channel it, away.

More localities are reconsidering this however, through design modification to use plant based drains and detention areas before excess water flows elsewhere.  Volumes handled by expensive engineered solutions are often decreased as is cost, and water is used productively near where it is produced.
Better design can actually increase volumes handled by bioengineering approaches, so often even reducing overall costs.  This type of approach may even be retro fitted at modest cost or with little disruption to existing facilities.

It is more difficult in monsoonal areas with major differences in urban water between the wet and dry seasons, but it is possible to modify designs to at least allow a reduction in irrigation in the early and late wet seasons by better using locally generated surface waters locally with better design of roads and local parklands.
Some projects have been finished in Sydney as well as overseas. There are some smart designs on the web site of  used in Sydney, an Australian company in this design space.  See more here - .

More are being planned, with some further details here –

And then there are green roofs, aimed at collecting and using water that falls on buildings and preventing much of that getting to street level – it helps cool buildings too, reducing heat load on concrete roofs.  More of these options are developing.

We just do not do enough of these more appropriate solutions here in the NT. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Increases in Aussie Beef to China

While the export of live cattle to indonesia and even elsewhere is slowing [ and it is the wet season too], there are some very significant increases occurring in sales of Australian beef to China.

Probably more importantly, it is in less expensive cuts, and not necessarily in the highest priced cuts eg scotch fillet or rump steak which often dominate boxed beef often sold to Asian markets.

It augurs well for potential sales from new abbattoirs in north Australia, especially the one near Darwin, which will hope to process some animals that may have gone to Indonesia.

China is showing an appetite for Australian beef that is rivaling its desire for our mineral resources.
A surge in exports to the Asian giant in the first two months of 2013 on the back of spectacular growth last year is causing Meat and Livestock Australia to step up promotion of our red meat products, mainly through the food service and restaurant trade,  and beyond Beijing and Shanghai to other lesser know cities here in Australia such as Tianjin, Hangzou and Shenzen.  MLA marketing manager Micheael Edmonds said China's beef buying patterns were beginning to show real promise for Australian exporters, who are still struggling to lift volumes in the sluggish Japanese and Korean markets.   "There's been a lot of talk about the opportunities in Asia but now we're really starting to see significant growth and some runs being put on the board," Mr Edmonds said.  "We saw it over 2011 and 2012 where China was without a doubt the shining light in the Asian region. "And there are opportunities at both ends of the market for both grass-fed and grain-fed product, with manufacturing beef and shin-shank filling the bulk commodity cuts and significant movements of brisket, once traditionally bound for Japan, now heading to China where they are fetching better prices."
Data released by MLA last Friday shows China flexing its buying muscle in February, with beef exports estimated to go close to exceeding the 10,000 tonne shipped weight mark by the end of this past week.

The MLA forecast for 2013 was 35,000 tonnes, but this could easily be exceeded based on current sales.   MLA chief economist Tim McRae said the growth was even more extraordinary given that prior to last year, which saw 32,900 tonnes exported, the largest calendar year total to China was only 7200 tonnes.

AAco had been making noises about a surge in sales to China, prior to the finalisation of the plans for the local processing facilities, and they may well be correct.

BUT....... could we also see the fickle nature of big sales to China, similar to mineral sales.  Or will they produce enough red meat, both beef and lamb, from land purchased in Australia by sovereign companies, bypassing any Australian profit, in a type of vertical integration system??

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Will EU Overfishing Finally Be Curtailed?

Australia has been called the lucky country often and for many and varied reasons.  On the world fishing scene we are a minnow, maybe a baby sardine - whatever, pretty small!

But strong efforts over recent years have reduced our fishing effort to encourage additional fish stocks in the region, and in the north ther eis a strong effort to protct Australia's sovereign fishing territory from outsiders and even local overfishing.

Europe has for many years been radically reducing their fishing stocks, even to the point where some fisheries have disappeared.  Fishing effort has increased, but still smaller numbers and smaller fish are being caught.

Getting agreement has been impossible among the EU nations not to mention the fact that some major fishing nations are operating but are outside the EU.

It seems that change is possible, and while tough there seems to be finally a realisationtha tunless radical steps are taken there will not be any fishery remaining - of almost any type- in a relatively few years.

A recent report here -

seems to finally offer some hope that the reforms needed to reduce fishing effort, eliminate or better manage by-catch, and put fishing on some sort of a program to be sustainable, might, just might get support.

It is not necessarily liked, but desperate measures seem to be needed to revive european fishing, otherwise there will be no commercial fishing within a few years.

Factual material about by-catch managment in Europe makes Australian northern fisheries management angelic in comparison,not to mention some of the great inventions developed locally in the NT to improve by catch managment, which seem to operate very effectively.

In Australia the fishery is not necessarily that bad [although previously at least one - the orange roughy fishery was nearly fished to extinction, until changes were made], but recent declarations of fishing exclusion zones around the continental areas of Australia have also been met with a harsh response from parts of the fishing industry here.  Yet there is reasonably strong evidence that exclusion zones can actually improve nearby areas as populations grow and spill over into areas outside the exclusion zones.  Yes, I have considerable sympathy for a few players who have been fishng responsibly and may have their livelihoods severely screwed up - they need to be assisted in some sort of transition.

BUT we must avoid the horrible demolition of fishstocks that has occurred in European waters over the past 50 years, and to start now to acheive a sustainable Australian fishery. 

Friday, March 01, 2013

Lamb from Australia to India

While one door closes another may be opening.  Australia is having difficulties selling beef or live cattle to Indonesia, but it seems another market for meat might be lamb sales to India.

Will not help northern cattle producers, but this could be an interesting option for sheepmeat producers.

It is understood that Australia is planning to sell boxed lamb meat.

The fairly dry media release follows -

Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig announced today that Australia had secured market access for Aussie lamb to India.  Australian lamb is being allowed into India free of quotas, based on Australia's compliance with India's food safety requirements.

"I am advised that Indians are fast developing a taste for our world renowned lamb, and that a number of Australian exporters are looking to this growing market," Dr Emerson said.  "India's economic growth is creating a rapidly expanding middle class that is looking for quality products of the sort Australia readily provides."  "India already has a middle class of around 170 million," he said.

selected lamb meat cuts
As the Government has highlighted in its White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century, Asia will soon be home to the majority of the world's middle class.  "Working with India to have our lamb enter this massive market is exactly the sort of cooperation we are seeking with the countries of Asia to drive Australia's prosperity," Dr Emerson said.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, said it was great news for Australian farmers.  "Australian farmers produce high quality lamb," Minister Ludwig said.  "The Gillard Government is committed to helping them take their product to the world and India is an important new growth market.  "I look forward to continuing to work with Australian producers and the Trade Minister to get the best results for Australian exporters."

Dr Emerson was in India last month for talks with his counterpart on the trade and investment relationship between the two countries.

India is Australia's fourth largest export market and the two-way trading relationship currently stands at around $18 billion.

So if visiting India and staying in hotel accomodation your next lamb korma curry might be Australian meat.