Growing seafood appetite an opportunity for Australia: report

Australia is in a prime position to take advantage of the growing global demand for seafood, a new industry report has found.

Seafood is the most consumed animal protein in the world, and with an estimated 30 to 40 million tonnes of additional seafood required globally to meet consumer demand by 2030, Australia is in a ‘box seat’ to take capitalise on this opportunity, it says.

Titled Smooth Sailing for Australian Seafood, the report, by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says that while Australian seafood accounts for only a small proportion of world seafood production and trade, it plays an important role globally, given the range of premium aquaculture and wild caught products produced here.

Australian animal proteins analyst Matt Costello said Australia’s reputation for producing high quality, sustainable seafood puts us in an enviable position.

“With one of the strongest reputations globally for producing high value, world class, sustainable and environmentally friendly seafood products, the Australian seafood industry is very well positioned to supply seafood hungry consumers internationally and domestically,” he said.

Growth in Asia
Asia in particular presents a strong opportunity for Australia’s industry, Costello said.

In 2014, Chinese per capita annual consumption of seafood is forecast to reach 37.7 kilograms per head, a rise of 57 percent since 2000. The global average is expected to reach just under 20 kilograms per head this year.

“Currently, most of the Chinese seafood consumption is still based on low-value domestically-raised product. But more significant is the expected growth in demand from Chinese consumers for higher-end seafood products, many of which will need to be imported.  This is a key opportunity for export-oriented aquaculture and fisheries, such as in Australia, which can supply premium items,” Costello said.

Globally, the major consumers of seafood include Korea, Norway and Japan with per capita per annum consumption in 2014 expected to reach 57.7 kilograms, 57.65 kilograms and 52.6 kilograms respectively.

Aquaculture versus wild-catch
The rise of aquaculture is also playing a significant role in driving global growth in seafood consumption, the report says, thanks to its ability to sustainably and efficiently convert feed to protein while also keeping prices affordable.

“The ability to produce more with less is going to be the challenge to the future of food production and the aquaculture sector is the most efficient converter of feed in comparison to all animal proteins,” he said.

Farmed salmon, for example, requires approximately 1.2 kilograms of feed to produce one kilogram of protein, while an estimated eight kilograms of feed are required to produce one kilogram of beef.

“With wild-catch seafood production growth remaining close to stagnant over the past 15 years, global seafood production is growing through increased aquaculture,” Costello said.

“Between 1990 and 2012, wild-catch seafood production increased just eight percent.  And with rising environmental and sustainability pressures coming from all participants along the supply chain – including consumers, companies and governments – it is likely there will be no growth in wild-catch production in the future.  Assuming that wild-catch remains at current levels, it is estimated that the extra 30 to 40 million tonnes of additional seafood will be required from aquaculture to meet global demand by 2030.”

Globally, aquaculture now accounts for more than 50 percent of seafood produced for human consumption, surpassing wild-catch in 2012, the report says. However here in Australia, seafood production is still dominated by wild-catch, accounting for 87 percent of production in 2012, with aquaculture making up a relatively small, yet increasing, share of production.

 

Australia shouldn’t sacrifice food safety standards for free trade

Ten years on from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, Australia is entering another round of negotiations towards the new and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this Free Trade Scorecard series, we review Australian trade policy over the years and look at where we stand today on the brink of a number of significant new trade deals.

A combination of dumb luck, geographical isolation and a zealous stance on quarantine has kept Australia relatively free of the many pests and diseases that can be spread by international agricultural trade. As a result, it has been spared many of the health threats and extra farming costs – not to mention irreversible damage to native wildlife – that come with the arrival of these pests, or with changes to food safety.

Strict food safety standards are often seen as market protectionism or barriers to trade, rather than what they also are: important protection measures for the consumers who will eat the food. Yet within the current round of trade negotiations it is likely that the United States will continue to put pressure on Australia to water down its regulations.

While Australia’s current regulations are not perfect, it is important that any discussions about reforming them are conducted with an eye first and foremost on the health and safety of Australians, and are not unduly influenced by trade concerns.

Australia’s clean reputation

More than 70% of Australian agricultural income is from exports. Consequently, our exports must meet importing countries’ expectation of being “free” of pests and residues – meaning that no living pests (plant, animal, or disease-causing microbes) are found in the product, and that any chemical residues are within agreed international limits.

Australia has an excellent international reputation for clean and green production. Because we are free of many trade-hampering pests, and because we specialise in low-input, low-output production systems, this freedom has allowed Australia’s process for regulating chemical use in agriculture, veterinary products and humans, to differ from many other countries.

In many cases, this has raised the costs an individual farmer faces when using chemicals, and given them fewer choices for how to manage crops and livestock. But for some industries this combination of costs and choices has slowed the rate at which pests develop resistance to chemicals, and as a result total production costs are lower than their international competitors. It has also helped those same farmers meet international safety standards and maintained the pristine reputation of their products.

One Australian tactic has been to use separate antibiotics for humans and animals. Countries that do not do this, such as the United States, can suffer much higher rates of drug failure.

As shown below, Australia and the United States use antibiotics at about the same rate, yet the resistance level is more than 30% higher in the latter.

 

Relationship between total antibiotic consumption (doses per 1000 population per day) and Streptococcus pneumoniae resistance to penicillin. safetyandquality.gov.au

 

Australia’s relative pest- and disease-free status gives its exporters a significant market advantage, and allows them to demand a price premium amid increasing public awareness about food safety. For example, in 2004 and 2005 Australia dominated the lucrative Japanese market for beef and veal when Japan halted US imports in response to the BSE outbreak.

 

Japanese beef imports, showing how Australia profited when the BSE outbreak caused confidence in US beef to slump. Department of Agriculture

 

As food can be contaminated anywhere from paddock to plate, each stage of the process needs to be monitored. Although consumers' preference for safe food may not always translate to higher prices, their refusal to buy food identified as potentially unsafe can be immediate and catastrophic for any exporting country that is identified (even incorrectly) as a source.

Watering down regulations?

Australia has a clear interest in maintaining the integrity of its regulations for plant and animal health and food safety. But its more stringent regulations have long been in the sights of our trading partners, who would prefer that our high standards be “harmonised” with their less stringent ones, to “facilitate trade”.

With Australia now embarking on increased economic integration with the US thorough the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, the question of Australia’s stringent food safety standards will no doubt be a key topic of discussion.

The United States has often argued that, in the absence of international standards of chemical use, American standards should be used. In 2007, this approach led Canada to lower its standards to match US settings.

The United States is currently grappling with the issue of updating its food standards, and is struggling to balance the need for public safety with private costs. So far, the goal of minimising private costs seems to be winning.

Bringing chemical and food standards into line with the United States is clearly in America’s interest. But there is little evidence that harmonising Australia’s more stringent standards with America’s less stringent ones would benefit Australia, either economically or socially.

Meanwhile, Australia is in the midst of a drive to reduce red tape, while also pledging to subsidise access to farming and veterinary chemicals, and to review its food safety settings, both domestically and overseas.

It is true that higher regulatory standards can often cost more. But the economic and social consequences of leaving Australians open to new and unknown food safety risks are likely to be much worse.

This article draws on research prepared for the 2014 Workshop “Ten Years since the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement: Where to for Australia’s Trade Policy?”, sponsored by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW Australia.

The Conversation

In the past David Adamson has received funding from the CRC's for Tropical Pest Management (1994-1999) and the Emerging Infectious Diseases CRC (2009). He is currently part of a COST-ACTION proposal looking at the evaluation metrics of one-health issues.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Gas price hike to be felt by manufacturers

A recently released report has predicted the rising price of gas will impact upon manufacturing and food processing industries across regional and rural Australia.

The Grattan Institute report said that domestic and international factors are affecting both supply and demand for natural gas, pushing up the price for users

One factor contributing to the rise technological advancements which have made it economically viable for Australia’s east-coast to export natural gas. The price of natural gas has been on the rise in international markets, which has attracted gas producers to move the supply from the cheaper to the more expensive market until prices converge. As a result, the wholesale price of gas will rise, and domestic gas users will pay more.

The report predicts that over time, the price is expected to peak and fall back somewhat, because increasing prices should lead to increased supply, either from higher-cost conventional sources that become competitive or from unconventional sources.

Political factors also play a part in the price rise. For example, Europe imports about a third of its gas from Russia, but political tensions may cause Europe to look elsewhere for a more secure supply – therefore pushing up demand.

For large gas-users, such as manufacturers, some cost pass through may be possible, but these businesses will otherwise absorb a relatively large cost or take the decision to replace existing equipment, which is can be a difficult capital investment decision.

Regional manufacturers, such as Kagome Australia will feel the impact of the rising gas price.

As Australia’s largest tomato processor, Kagome injects more than $24 million a year into the local economy.

Tomato processing requires a large amount of heat in the form of steam, and its production uses more than 280,000 gigajoules of gas a year, most of it from February to April. The cost of gas is significant, representing around 5 per cent of total costs.

Gas suppliers have advised Kagome Australia that its next gas contract will involve a gas price increase that could be as much as 100 percent.

Passing through costs will be hard, as Kagome Australia discovered when the carbon tax added around $500,000 to their annual operating costs, just as imports from places such as California became more competitive.

Alternative energy sources such as coal are cheap but produce pollution and are difficult to handle. LPG is even more expensive, electricity would require major reinvestment and biomass is logistically impractical.

The company’s managers are considering all their options.

 

Innovation essential for food and ag growth: Rabobank

Global Agribusiness bank, Rabobank says that innovation is essential to achieving growth within food and agriculture.

In its 2014 flagship report, “Unleashing the Potential for Global F&A – A Call for Innovation and Leadership,” Rabobank says that a stronger focus on innovation will provide a bridge between near-term challenges and longer term opportunities within the global food and agricultural space.

The report argues that through innovation, global food and agriculture will be able to essentially achieve more with less – that is to increase food availability and improve access, with minimal environmental impacts. The report also stressed that leadership will be the single most important tool in overcoming challenges and realising the opportunities.

“This leadership will come from CEOs of global and local F&A companies, from investors in global F&A, from scientists with the ability to promote new and improved technologies and practices, from government experts, from NGOs, from international networks, and from international commercial and institutional banks. Where these leaders sit is not what sets them apart – it is their vision, the way they drive the case for change and their ability to inspire action that differentiates them.” says Wiebe Draijer, Rabobank executive board chairman.

The report also argues that harnessing innovation requires mindset shift to accept change. Rabobank says that although global food and agriculture has experienced much change over the past decade, there is still a degree of reluctance to accept how the industries must change in order to successfully respond to the constraints that come with capitalising on long-term opportunities.

In order to achieve this, Rabobank developed ten big ideas aimed at boosting global food availability and improving access to food over the next decade.

Rabobank's 10 big ideas: 
1. Adopt big data in US agriculture 
2. Close the yield gap in Central and Eastern Europe 
3. Improve China's food security 
4. Strengthen South-South trade 
5. Invest in local storage 
6. Boost production in the food and agriculture engine room 
7. Develop cold chains in China 
8. Grow aquaculture 
9. Lift dairy production in India 
10. Raise sugarcane's productivity

Draijer says that while there are some significant hurdles ahead, Rabobank is positive about the sector, and confident in the ability of global F&A to rise to the challenge.

 

Global wine production could drop by up to four percent, Rabobank

A new report from agribusiness bank, Rabobank has estimated that global wine grape production could drop between two and four percent in 2014.

The prediction follows a year of decade production-highs produced in 2013 with Australia, Chile and Argentina now all recording official decreases in the amount of wine produced.

Marc Soccio, senior analyst at Rabobank told ABC News that the impressive 2013 harvest has demonstrated that there is still capacity for the industry to produce large volumes of wine.

"There was a seasonal lull in production for around three years, but last year we saw that even though there has been some restructuring to try and realign supply and demand, the potential for the world to produce a hell of a lot of wine is still there," he said.

Although production in Australia has dropped by around 7 percent from 2013, Soccio says that there is still a great deal of wine available in the global market, meaning that export prices will remain depressed for some time yet.

"It's not a sharp enough drop to see immediate run up in demand for Australian stocks," he said

In October 2013, the Winemakers Federation of Australia said that Hunter Valley wine producers in particular were suffering a significant financial hit due to the oversupply of Australian wine.

"Well for Hunter wine growers, they've got to compete with wines from all across Australia," said chief executive of the Peak Body, Paul Evans at the time.

"If there is an over-supply of course that competition increases.

"That competition is extremely fierce at the moment and that reduces margins and profitability for everybody."

 

Australia’s oldest dairy business bounces back from $9m loss

Van Diemen’s Land Company, Australia’s oldest dairy farming business, is back in the black.

After recording a $9 million loss last financial year, the company in north-west Tasmania has posted a $7.2 million profit, reports the ABC.

"A good combination of good season, good milk price, good work by our people and good strategies have contributed to a very strong result," CEO Trevor Westacott said.

Westacott said the company’s performance makes it more attractive to investors, and Van Diemen’s Land Copany is currently searching for investors for a $180 million expansion.

Despite the business’ success this year, the global dairy price has lost 40 percent, which will reduce milk prices.

"That's going to test us," Westacott said. "We're working at the moment at putting in place strategies to limit that, but we do have 70 percent of our prices fixed."
 

Bar set low for a ‘do no harm’ China-Australia FTA

Recent public comments of senior Australian government ministers suggest they are increasingly confident a free trade agreement with China will be concluded by the end of the year.

For its part, Beijing has also offered hints an agreement will be reached within the same time frame. The speculation is a grand signing will take place in mid-November when Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Brisbane for the G20 meeting.

Given that governments from both countries have staked their credibility on such a schedule, it is more likely than not pen will be put to paper next month.

But the significance of an Australia-China FTA is at least as much about diplomacy as it is about economics. The reality is that the Australia-China economic relationship does not really need an FTA to flourish. Agreements on all access in various sectors are concluded constantly without need for it to be part of a grander sounding FTA. Meaning the excitement behind the likely conclusion of an agreement will exceed the actual significance of such an agreement.

Bored into agreement

Let’s begin with what an FTA actually is. Rather than comprehensive economic agreements covering broad aspects of one’s economy, they tend to end up as rather piecemeal agreements covering specific sub-sectors that negotiators chose to target. Additionally, rather than expressing a broad meeting of minds, philosophies and policies between two economies, they contain extremely detailed provisions.

For example, there might be something about “processed dried stone-fruit” attracting a lower tariff than “semi-processed dried stone-fruit” with appendixes indicating what “processed” and “semi-processed” means, what constitutes a “stone-fruit”, what proportion of the product has to have dried fruit in its ingredients for it to be classified as “dried fruit”, and which stone-fruit are excluded from the provisions etc. It is no wonder that trade negotiators tend to admit the side that becomes bored first tends to lose.

Moreover, when one signs an FTA, especially with China, they tend to be treated as much as political and diplomatic agreements as well as economic ones. In this context, the Tony Abbott government has understood the “me too” mentality in Northeast Asia and played intra-Northeast Asian jealousies well. With Australia having signed FTAs with Japan and Korea, China pushed its own negotiators to fast-track an agreement with Australia.

Foreign investment thresholds

However, since Beijing needs the FTA for political and diplomatic purposes, it will want the appearance of a breakthrough in China-Australia relations. This will come in the form of China insisting that no Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) process is required for Chinese investment into Australia under one billion dollars, whether this be investment by Chinese state-owned-enterprises (SOEs) or private firms.

Such a threshold has been applied to Japan and South Korea under Australia’s FTAs with those countries. As China wants the FTA to demonstrate that it too has a special economic partnership with Australia, even if there are strategic and political differences, Beijing will insist on being treated the same as other Northeast Asian neighbours in this context.

For Australia’s part, this was always only really a political sticking point that Canberra will likely relent on. As surveys such as the annual Lowy Institute Poll demonstrate, there is widespread public suspicion of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI), most of it being undertaken by state-owned enterprises, even if the reasons for such suspicions are not well formed or articulated. In opposition, Abbott appeared to share some of these fears. But in government, his tone seems to have changed. After all, FDI entering into Australia still has to play by Australian rules and follow Australian laws and regulations.

The reality is that the vast majority of Chinese FDI applications into Australia have been approved over the past decade, despite some high profile knock-backs. All indications are the Abbott government will accommodate Beijing’s insistence to raise the threshold to one billion dollars knowing that almost all Chinese FDI applications would have passed the FIRB test in any event. Besides, Canberra will be happy to reduce this hurdle for Chinese firms since FIRB is only an advisory body, albeit an influential one, and the relevant minister can still knock back FDI applications on national security or other grounds.

In return, Australia will receive better access to the Chinese domestic market for our diary and agricultural goods, but this would have occurred in any event without an FTA since provincial governments in various Chinese markets have been agitating for high quality imports in these sector and would have formally and informally made it possible for Australian firms to more easily access those provincial markets.

When it comes to Australian access to the services markets such as legal and financial, we are likely to receive some concessions. But the real barriers to entry in these Chinese markets are local ones at the regulatory and social levels, and an FTA will not reduce these barriers.

The bottom line is that both countries want an FTA for diplomatic reasons. The major, headline concessions that both sides will offer carry few costs to the conceding country, would have occurred in any event, or were already happening in practice. If the acceptable standard is that an FTA should “do no harm” at the very minimum, then that low threshold will be met in November.

The Conversation

John Lee does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Foodbank praises food and agriculture companies at annual awards

Kellogg’s, Manildra Group and GrainCorp were three of four companies recognised at last night’s Foodbank Australia awards.

The annual awards recognise the contribution of companies that help to bring food relief to Australia’s less fortunate. They were presented at the AFGC Industry Leaders Conference in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on 1 October.

The four recipients were Kellogg’s, Manildra Group, GrainCorp and the Flight Centre Foundation.

Kellogg’s claimed the Leadership Award, in part for its Breakfast for Better Days program, which saw the company donate 7 million serves of breakfast cereal along with $100,000 to help expand Foodbank’s school breakfast program.

"Kellogg's has supported Foodbank since 1998, and we’re proud to be continuing our partnership with Foodbank in efforts towards hunger relief,” Andrew Towle, managing director of Kellogg Australia & New Zealand said.

Manildra Group – the largest user of wheat for industrial purposes in Australia, processing some 1 million tonnes of wheat per annum – was the recipient of the Collaboration Award. Over four years Manildra has donated over 1,300 tonnes of flour which has underpinned the breakfast cereal and pasta collaborative supply programs.

The Award for Innovation went to GrainCorp for its role in establishing the Grain Program, which has seen the sector exceed its first year target of providing 1,000 tonnes of grain for Foodbank’s manufacturing endeavours.

GrainCorp helped to set up and trial the system and then provided leads and introductions to other companies in the grain industry to facilitate its expansion. It has also looked for increasingly creative ways of sourcing grain, working with farmers to facilitate their individual donations.

Finally, this year’s Partnership Award went to the Flight Centre Foundation. The staff of Flight Centre Travel Group, with company matching, has donated $150,000 to ensure the sustainability of a Long Life Milk Program. Employees also fundraised and held food drives to assist in times of emergency such as the Queensland floods and the NSW bushfires. They also packed care packs and participated in hamper challenges as part of their team building activities.

 

WA could double food value by 2025, Delane

According to Rob Delane, director general of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food, the value of the state’s agri-food economy could double by 2025.

Delane was one of the guest speakers at the Mid-West Economic and Resources Summit where he spoke about what he sees as a bright future for the Western Australian agricultural sector despite current low farm commodity prices, ABC News reports.

"There are more opportunities than I've seen in agriculture in my 35-year career, but they will not be delivered on a plate from Asia," he said.

"If we are to be a premium food bowl for Asia and capturing the business benefits, then there has got to be a lot of people working together to capture that opportunity.”

Delane said that a focus on premium products sold at premium prices will be key to driving the WA agrifood economy.

"The demand will help improve the price in the longer run,” he said.

"We can improve the efficiency of supply chains and there are small and large businesses in the Mid-West that are strongly focussed on that."

Delane’s comments echo those of Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce earlier in the year.

In August, Joyce said that it was ‘ridiculous’ to think that Australia could feed the estimated three billion South East Asian middle class consumers by 2030, and that the 'food bowl' concept was read as a threat overseas.

“Indonesian farmers don’t want to hear that the only cattle that will be available for market will be Australian cattle,” said Joyce.

Joyce said that Australia should focus on marketing it agricultural outputs as premium products and that he is currently studying the successful NZ 100% Prue brand campaign, and has been in discussions with senior ministers about developing a similar style of strategy for Australian produce.

“If we all go off as rats and mice, here, there and everywhere, then we won’t have a consistent approach,” he said.

 

The world’s largest chia seed company expands into NT

The Chia Company, the world’s largest producer of chia seeds has now expanded its growing operations into the Northern Territory.

For just under ten years, The Chia Company has been growing the popular ‘superfood’ in Western Australia’s Ord Irrigation Scheme, and has now just harvested its first crop in the Northern Territory, ABC Rural reports.

John Foss, chief executive of The Chia Company says that the first NT crop has performed well and that yields are ‘very positive’.

"We'll be sending seeds off for analysis and ensuring that we've got the quality and omega 3 that we require, so it's early days,” says Foss.

"But so far it looks positive and we can see there's opportunity to expand further across the Territory and then into Queensland."

Foss says that the company has received interest from a number of growers who are keen to grow chia in the NT, and adds that the seed would fit well into particular crop rotations.

“There's probably some opportunities with some horticulture rotations, but the economics have to stick and we have to be sure that we can get that premium-quality product out of the NT before we progress our plans too aggressively, but it certainly looks like an opportunity for us," he said.

 

Sustainable palm oil pledges made at UN summit

Three of the world’s largest palm oil companies have made commitments to work towards ending deforestation – a by-product of unsustainable palm oil production.

Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill made the pledge at a UN summit on the use of palm oil and have also agreed to encourage incoming Indonesian president, Joko Widodo to implement polices on the issue of deforestation, The Australian reports.

According to the UN’s Environmental Protection Agency, palm oil is a leading driver of global deforestation, which causes nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN says that over the past year, a growing percentage of palm oil producers have pledged to use land that has not been illegally cleared and now represents up to 60 percent of global production.

Dave MacLennan, CEO of Cargill said that the company will be making commitments beyond palm oil by avoiding deforestation in all of its products.

“We understand that this sort of commitment cannot be limited to just select commodities or supply chains,” he said.

 

NFF appoints Mondelez director as new CEO

The National Farmers Federation has announced the appointment Simon Talbot to the position of CEO.

Talbot, who is currently director of corporate affairs Asia Pacific at Mondelez International, will replace acting CEO Tony Mahar who has served as an interim CEO since Matt Linnegar left the organisation earlier in the year.

In addition to his role at Mondelez, Talbot  – who comes from a farming background – has also worked in corporate affairs and sustainability in the areas of mining, forestry, construction and consultancy.

NFF President, Brent Finlay said that over 80 expressions of interest were received for the role but it was Talbot that shone through as the most “outstanding candidate”.

Talbot says that he has a strong passion and connection with the Australia’s agricultural sector, and aims to capitalise on growth opportunities to secure a thriving future for the industry.

“For some time now I’ve been seeing the opportunity in the Australian food and agriculture sector not being fully realised,” Talbot told Queensland Country Life.

“…I want to see a new generation of farmers grasp the land and actually be a thriving generation, not a surviving generation.”

Talbot is due to formally commence his new role on 20 October.

 

Organic farmer Steve Marsh faces $800,000 in costs

A West Australian organic farmer, who sought to sue his neighbour for $85,000 for allegedly contaminating his property with genetically modified canola, could now have to pay $800,000 in court costs.

In June, the Supreme Court rejected Kojonup farmer Steve Marsh's compensation case against his former childhood friend Michael Baxter, ABC Rural reports.

Marsh alleged that he lost his organic certification on more than half of his farm after GM canola blew onto his land from Baxter’s neighbouring property.

Following a three week hearing, Justice Kenneth Martin ruled in favour of Baxter, stating that although Marsh and his wife bought two causes of action against their neighbour – common law negligence involving the breach of duty to ensure that the GM seeds were contained on his property, and the tort of private nuisance – they only claimed financial damages.

The organic farmer announced his decision to appeal the court's ruling in July, which is still pending.

Justice Kenneth Martin has now ruled to allow limits on costs to be removed, given what he said was the “unusual difficulty, complexity and not to mention an undeniable importance of the matter”.

In orders handed down on Friday, Justice Martin said the draft estimate of taxed costs and disbursements claimed by Mr Baxter against Mr Marsh was $803,989.

That included almost $339,000 in fees to Mr Baxter's legal team to prepare the case.

The awarding of costs is subject to any application for a stay of orders pending the outcome of the appeal.

Justice Martin also said attempts by Marsh's legal team to show Baxter did not ultimately bear the primary responsibility for costs in the case, were "wholly misplaced".

“To allow the plaintiffs' application for disclosure by Mr Baxter in respect of any agreements from the PGA [Pastoralists and Graziers Association], Monsanto or Mr Baxter's crop insurer would, on my assessment, very much amount to the sanctioning of an impermissible fishing expedition,” Justice Martin said. 

 

APEC economies address food security and environmental challenges

In an effort to ensure safe, accessible and sustainable food supplies into the future amid changing global conditions, food and agriculture ministers from APEC economies have outlined a new innovation-based cooperation network.

Following the third APEC ministerial meeting on food security which was held in Beijing on Friday, ministers issued the Beijing Declaration on APEC Food Security which includes new measures on how to feed the regions 2.8 billion people and alleviate hunger.

“Despite the enormous progress made in agriculture by the Asia-Pacific region, there is still imbalance among economies and our food security still faces great challenges,” said Wang Yang, vice premier of China. “Population growth, climate change, environmental pollution and natural disasters are posing new difficulties to agriculture development.”

Ministers welcomed an action plan which is designed to enhance connectivity of APEC food standards and safety assurance by placing an emphasis on strengthening food safety management through international standards alignment, the development of risk-based requirements and establishment as well as the improvement of early warning, traceability and recall systems.

Commitments to personnel training on trans-boundary animal and plant diseases as well as the strengthening of information exchange and cooperation on safety of food imports and exports were also made.

“Our economies are utilizing a Policy Partnership on Food Security as an efficient tool for integrating with business to achieve food security,” noted Nikolai Fyodorov, agriculture minister of Russia. “Innovative development of agriculture as well as its infrastructure based on the wide investment calculation and trade development are key priorities.”

In relation to climate change, ministers agreed to pursue joint research of new eco-friendly technologies, planting patterns and disease and pest control methods. A new APEC action plan for reducing food loss and waste was also welcomed.

“There’s a whole set of questions about food in global value chains,” said Dr Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat. “We know that a lot of food is actually lost in the distribution process and the topics of research and development, science, regulation and environment are much more complex in the area of agriculture.”

 

Beekeeper joins NASAA to drive organic certification

Beekeeper and former grazier Peter Hastie has joined the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) as industry liaison officer.

Hastie’s role at NASAA will see him charged with developing the organic, biodynamic and sustainable agricultural industries across Australia.

Formerly managing livestock grazing operations in NSW and the Northern Territory, Hastie established and ran a small localised food hub out of New England and ran his own property valuation business. He is now an organic beekeeper and an artisan produce enthusiast.

He is also a member of Biodynamic Agriculture Australia and is an ex-vice president and founding member of the not for profit Mano River Sustainability and Development Association (MRSDA).

Hastie’s role will be to work with all sectors of Australia’s organic industry, to educate industry and consumers on organic, biodynamic and sustainable agricultural practices, and to assist operators to gain organic certification. He replaces Alex Mitchell who resigned in 2013.

“I’m passionate about the development of sustainable agricultural production and natural resource management,” Hastie said.

“I look forward to learning a lot and to developing opportunities that strengthen and grow Australia’s organic and biodynamic industry.”

The appointment comes after 12 months of internal restructuring to refocus NASAA on growing domestic and export opportunities for Australian organic produce, particularly in Asia.

In August 2014, NASAA made history with one of its inspectors approved to inspect to Chinese regulations, the first person outside of China to receive this level of accreditation.

 

Peanut industry looks to NT

The peanut industry wants to work with local growers to re-establish itself in the Northern Territory.

Peanut Company of Australia CEO, John Howard, said the industry is looking to expand in Queensland and the Northern Territory to help keep up with local demand, ABC Rural reports.

Howard said the company would like to work with local growers to re-establish the peanut industry in the Northern Territory’s Katherine.

"I don't know that we would be reinvesting [there] in our own right, as far as owning country and farming," he said.

"Our focus is investing in the market and creating a demand for Australian peanuts,  that we work with growers to actually grow for us.

"Part of that investment is working with research facilities, to make sure that we're identifying the varieties that are appropriate for different geographies, and improving the chances of success for those growers that are going to work with us.

"It has been shown that peanuts can work in that environment, and we want to keep making sure that this option is put in front of growers, with the aim of potentially contracting and working with them down the track.

"It doesn't have to be massive. We would like to see 1,000 hectares in the first instance. That would work in very well with us."

In 2007, the Peanut Company of Australia invested millions of dollars to establish a commercial peanut crop at Taylor's Park, just outside Katherine, but abandoned the plan and sold the 11,700 hectare property sold to a sandalwood producer in 2012.

Howard says while its business model was ultimately unviable, the company proved peanuts could be successfully grown in the Top End.

"The issue we had with our experience in the Territory was the business model and how we went about it, not whether peanuts could be grown there or not," he said.

"One of the great outcomes of what we went through was essentially a big research and development operation, which did identify that peanuts could be grown successfully in the Territory.

"However, given the harshness of the environment, you need to be able to minimise the impacts of nature. Therefore, you need to put in a cropping system that supports it.

"Where you do that, we found that peanuts are able to stack up as a commercial enterprise."

 

Agriworld Australia 2015 announced

Reed Exhibitions Australia has announced a new conference and exhibition event designed to support the operation and growth of the agribusiness industry.

Agriworld Australia will bring together the entire agribusiness value chain at Sydney Showground, on 15 & 16 July 2015.

The event will feature:

  • Agriinvest – investment services (finance, legal & tax support, business services)
  • Agritech – farm production (field technologies, animal management)
  • Agrinext – processing (technology, generation solutions, equipment)
  • Agritrade – trade services (transport, storage, smart technology, export services)

Agriworld Australia will attract Australian and international professionals from the agricultural food production, fishing and aquaculture and food processing industries. Attendees will have the opportunity to source and buy the latest products, equipment and services to enhance their production productivity from the field to the processing plant. They can also interact with both domestic and international investors, understand the market appetite for their products and get to know the best channels for delivery to market.

Exhibitors at Agriworld Australia will showcase the latest technologies and support services from farm production to food processing and trade, and will have the opportunity to connect and engage with the domestic agricultural supply chain and to exploit opportunities to access this fast-growing sector in Australia and key Asian markets.

The investment stream (Agriinvest) within Agriworld Australia will attract domestic and international investors, who will benefit from the opportunity to assess the different commodity risks and their potential, look at how best to diversify their investment portfolio and network on a larger scale with those companies that can help them own a piece of Australia’s agricultural market.

Delegates at the Agriworld Australia conference will benefit from a mix of seminars and interactive workshops providing unparalleled, highly valuable face-to-face learning opportunities. A premium line-up of national and international speakers will present their knowledge, experiences and solutions on all aspects of farm management – productivity, food quality, nutrition and R&D, strategy, animal care, livestock management and agricultural investment.

John Gorton, executive director of Reed Exhibitions Australia, said “the launch of Agriworld Australia follows extensive industry research and consultation, which clearly demonstrated the market need for a premium quality, comprehensive agribusiness event for the full ‘farm to fork’ agricultural/agri-food value chain.”

For more information, click here.

 

Wheat production plant to be built in Tamworth

OGL Resources Limited has announced it has signed strategic agreements with Henan Lotus Flower Gourmet Power Co and Gezhouba Xinjiang Co.

The agreements are aimed at tapping into the latest wheat-based monosodium glutamate (MSG) production and management technology and establishment of the first of four wheat based food ingredient and ethanol production plants in Australia, with the first plant at Tamworth in the next three years.

Executive director of OGL, Mathew Kelley said the plant in Tamworth “has the potential to become a key infrastructure asset for the local and global food community.”

Construction for the $300 million plant will begin once the necessary approvals have been secured, which is anticipated to be in the second quarter of 2015 and expected to take between 12 and 18 months.

 

Marketing campaign flips consumers perceptions of potatoes

An effective marketing campaign in Western Australia has successfully turned declining potato sales into a profitable market.

Last year, WA growers invested $1.5 million into the development of a campaign which was designed to address consumers perceptions that potatoes were unhealthy. After just nine months, the Potato Marketing Corporation WA has lifted declining sales up by 2000 tonnes The Weekly Times reports.

Marketing expert Paul Graham told the 2014 Potato Industry Conference this week that over the last decade, the average Australian consumed 26kg of potatoes per annum, but that number dropped to 20kg in recent years.

He said that the campaign has served as a valuable tool in “inspiring behavioural change” amongst consumers, by providing them with tips on how to prepare vegetables easily.

Graham said that the success of the campaign and has now placed that category “back into growth”.

“We were surprised with the result (of the marketing campaign) and to see it begin to turn around so quickly,” Graham said.

Together with TV and radio advertisements, the WA potato industry is now looking to develop in-store supermarket advertising to promote the versatility of potatoes, specifically as the “king of the side dish”.

Graham said that the potential to extend the campaign nationally was on the cards, however the opportunity was still being discussed by the broader industry as the potato sector did not currently have a national marketing levy.

 

Elders sells Charlton Feedlot to Teys for $10m

Elders has announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell Charlton Feedlot to beef industry operator Teys for just over $10 million.

The sale is in line with Elders’ program to divest in assets and reduce debt as the gross proceeds of the sale will go directly to debt reduction.

According to a statement issued to the ASX, the sale gives rise to a profit of approximately $3.95m, subject to post completion adjustments.

Elders chief executive Mark Allison said that the sale is in line with the company's new strategy.

“The disposal of Charlton Feedlot, which is not core to Elders’ strategy, marks a further step towards our commitment to simplify the business, concentrate on high return activities and reduce term debt,” he said.

The sale is expected to be finalised by 28 July.

 

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