The need for farmers to adapt to suit the commercial climate of the day
by Chris Jackson, Export Manager UK TAG Last month I wrote my column as I travelled through India and then on to the Philippines. Since then, my travels have continued through Australia, Vietnam and Thailand where I witnessed agriculture go from one extreme of subsistence farming to another of agriculture on an industrial scale. In Australia, you are also reminded that farming is totally weather dependent. For instance, the rains have so far missed parts of the Northern Territory and Queensland where livestock are starving and reliant on food deliveries of hay and straw from New South Wales just to keep alive vital breeding stock; with all other animals having either been slaughtered early or died from starvation. For stock farmers, losing livestock is one of the worst blows that you can suffer when they are nurtured like family. For arable farmers and our urban cousins, this is a fact not understood and can be devastating. It matters not the breed of the cattle, sheep, goat or pigs, their breeding is always a lifetime’s commitment. Recently, we saw the efforts of the New South Wales farmers who were attempting to alleviate the pressure on their colleagues by sending the biggest ever peace time convoy of trucks laden with forage to the area. In southern Queensland, the harvest of sorgum is now getting started I think earlier than usual so we hope that the yields are not depressed. In central New South Wales there is a different story where rice yields are proportionate to the amount of rains that they have experienced. However, where we see the price of water exceed the price of land, without water crops or animals cannot survive as we saw earlier in this article.
The commercial realities of farming
Then we look at the commercial realities of farming and the farmer’s own ability to adapt and change to suit the commercial climate of the day. With farmers changing in Queensland and New South Wales from the world’s most staple of diets, from rice to cotton. Where with new varieties and cropping techniques and of course prices in the millions per hectare being given over to this new crop, and new cotton gins developed to process the crop into cotton, seed 28 | May 2016 - Milling and Grain
and oil. Interestingly, a lot of the Australian cotton oil is sent to America for cooking; a country with a long history of cotton growing. There are now about 40 cotton gins operating in Australia compared to the 1000 in the USA but using all of the very latest technology to ensure products of the highest quality. The newest gin I was privileged to visit with an investment of over AUS$ 40 mil owned by a farmer co operative with this sort of investment high quality cotton is another export product for the Australian farmers backed with large investments in machinery and irrigation.
Onward to Vietnam
From witnessing industrial farming in Australia I travelled on to Vietnam. What a contrast! However, a country with paddy fields of less than half a hectare the country still ranks number three in the world for rice exports. In Vietnam, there is also not such a massive reliance on machinery. They have the man power in abundance with still more than 70 percent of the population still relying on agriculture for their incomes, which in some cases are still below US$ 1000 per year. However, with technology and education, this should improve and the government has ambitious plans in place to increase outputs. With that increase in incomes, twinned with modern genetics for crops and livestock, huge increases in productivity can be achieved. Vitally, as we see vast increases in industrial and housing developments, twinned with increasing urbanisation; all of which is taking place on the best of our agricultural land. This is putting even more pressure on the remaining farmers to use their adaptability and expertise to continue to produce food.
Looking towards Indonesia
Ensuring that we keep hold of the skills that the world cannot afford to lose, with my colleagues at Perendale we will be at Indo Livestock, which this year is held in Jakarta. Here we will be running some practical training sessions to demonstrate new technologies for high quality feeds, in order to improve livestock production. Before going to Indonesia, I have another exhibition the China Animal Husbandry Expo held this year in Shenyang followed by World Pork Expo in the USA where I hope to see some of our readers. @AgrictecExports
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