Long-term view key to $100 billion agriculture target

Reaching the target of $100 billion in agricultural output will require industry to take a long term view, and continue to take hard choices that lift farm productivity and keep Australian exports competitive against rivals, ABARES executive director Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds told the 2020 ABARES Outlook Conference in Canberra recently.

“We have enjoyed a run of favourable output prices, particularly for livestock products.  These higher prices have accounted for about 90 per cent of the increase in output value over two decades,” Hatfield-Dodds said.

“While we all hope prices stay favourable, which ABARES considers likely for livestock over the next few years, getting to $100 billion will require hard work and tough choices.”

Hatfield-Dodds listed several steps that would be vital to meeting the National Farmer Federation’s goal of lifting the value of Australian agricultural production to $100 billion over the next decade, including maintaining the trend towards larger farms, as well as improvements in harnessing data and managing precious natural resources.

“Increased farm scale has accounted for more than two thirds of the growth in average broadacre farm income since 1990. Indeed, without this increase in scale is not clear that farming would be financially attractive to the next generation,” he said.

“Farm consolidation helps diffuse better management practices, and many technologies and capital equipment have economies of scale.”

While farmers were already adapting to drier conditions over the past two decades that were impacting on farm profits, Dr Hatfield-Dodds said more challenges lay ahead.

Australia has one of the world’s most sophisticated water trading markets, designed to ensure water on the driest inhabited continent was put to best economic use.

“ABARES finds water trade delivers an average of $150 million in increased output value in the Murray Darling Basin each year – and four times that amount in a very dry year,” he said.

“Some communities are concerned about water trade moving water out of their region, and water recovery feels very here and now, while the benefits of a healthy working river feel distant – particularly in times of drought.

“We know that water markets are complex, and can be difficult to understand.  ABARES analysis finds a combination of factors are putting upward pressure on price of water allocations.

“The fundamental driver is that water markets have unlocked new opportunities.  People see these opportunities and are willing to bid for water to take advantage of them.

“Moving from old patterns of water use to new ones can be disruptive.  But it is also what puts food on the table, and keeps industry profitable.

“Recent perennial plantings, particularly of almonds, will help boost the value of Australian agriculture.  That is important.  These same almonds will also require more water as they come to maturity.

“This and other factors will see an ongoing trend towards higher average prices – benefiting entitlement holders, but adding to the pressures on some farms and sectors.”

In an increasingly connected and competitive world, Dr Hatfield-Dodds said the producers and exporters of tomorrow must continue to focus on understanding consumers’ wants and needs, including being ready to substantiate claims around clean, healthy, and sustainable food.

Farmers in the future could also benefit from being paid to deliver conservation and ecosystem services alongside existing agricultural production, potentially boosting landholder incomes substantially.

“I think the stars might be aligning to make this practical at scale, delivering a new source of income for farmers and a range of public good benefits to the wider community,” Dr Hatfield-Dodds said.


“The future will not be like the past.  We will need to anticipate, innovate and collaborate to stay ahead of the curve.”

Karen Martini Granola

This new granola, created by chef and food personality Karen Martini, is available in two varieties to suit the whole household.

Karen Martini Granola is made from premium ingredients including whole grain oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit and is available in two flavours: Cranberry, Almond & Dates and Crunchy Seed & Nuts with a hint coconut and honey.

The Cranberry, Almond & Date Granola is packed full of crunchy almonds, juicy, sweet cranberries and dates, with a hint of cinnamon and zesty orange providing a naturally sweet and indulgent breakfast option.

A fruit-free variety is also available, with the Crunchy Seeds & Nuts Granola boasting whole grain oats, almonds, cashews, pepitas and chia seeds for those who prefer an extra crunch. These ingredients are complemented by coconut, a hint of spice and a dash of honey, resulting in a lovely floral aroma that’s emphasised by a golden, toasted crunch.

The recipes for both granolas were inspired by flavours from Karen Martini’s latest cook book and her desire to create an indulgent breakfast option based on real, whole food ingredients.

“I’ve been making my own versions of granola for years and always pack it full of amazing whole food ingredients. My Karen Martini Granola range has been created in the same way because I wanted it to be as nourishing as it is enjoyable – that’s what good food is all about,” says Karen.

The Karen Martini Granola range provides a delicious and wholesome option for breakfast or a snack and can be enjoyed with milk or yoghurt and fresh fruit or blitzed up in a smoothie for breakfast on-the- go.

Muesli with no added sugars, syrups and oils

MixMyMuesli has officially launched into the market, offering consumers a healthy and convenient breakfast option with 100% no added sugars, syrups and oils.

Frustrated by misleading packaging claims consumers were exposed to on a daily basis, Directors Kris Veleski and Tim Joyce developed the muesli range to fill an obvious gap in the market for a nutritious muesli containing high sources of fibre and no refined sugars.

“We found that many Australian muesli manufacturers were deceiving Australians by promoting trendy ingredients or health slogans on their packaging, despite sugar making up more than 35% of the ingredients in some popular brands. We wanted to create an innovative, delicious muesli that was high in nutrients and offered real health benefits to consumers”, said Managing Director Kris Veleski.

Unlike the majority of muesli brands, these new products contain premium dried fruits, nuts and grains to increase the flavour of the base muesli. The Australian owned and made mueslis are also low in kilojoules, and combine natural, unprocessed and nutrient-dense ingredients.

“Unlike 71% of mueslis that contain added sugar to sweeten their taste, MixMyMuesli has 100% no added sugar across the entire range. The mixes are also low in kilojoules, averaging 1611KJ’s per 100g, which is almost 10% less than the typical muesli in the health food category,” added Director Tim Joyce.

With an average of 5.9g of sugar per serve, MixMyMuesli has been produced using premium dried fruits instead of refined sugar. Research has showed that dried fruits have up to 3.5 times the fibre, vitamins and minerals of fresh fruits, and encompass high amounts of micronutrients and antioxidants.

The range offers seven different mixes for Australian consumers with diverse health needs. The products include Runners Mix, Exotic Low Fat, Goji Berry & Chia Antioxidant, Organic Super Grains, Hi Protein, Café Style Gourmet Muesli and Gluten Free Deluxe.

Herman Brot launches into breakfast cereal market

Herman Brot Protein Muesli launches this week and will be available in three flavours – Peanut Candy, Red Fruits and Chocolate.

According to the company, the highlight of the muesli is the amount of plant protein found in each serve.  Peanut Candy contains 47 per cent protein, Red Fruits contains 44 per cent protein, and Chocolate contains 44 per cent protein.

“In a market where most breakfast cereals have minimal nutritional value, are often full of hidden sugars and promoted to consumers as healthy (using creative and gimmicky marketing techniques); we are proud to once again be launching a staple food with no artificial colours or preservatives, and products that have macros that are very hard to compete with,” said Herman Brot’s Christian Coenen.

“With incredible high protein, low carb and low GI figures – the muesli is suitable for people with Type II diabetes, health & fitness professionals and people wanting to lose weight.  Created using plant protein, the products are also perfect for vegans and vegetarians.”

The muesli will be available in select independent supermarkets and health food stores in SE QLD from today and will roll out into wider QLD, NSW, VIC and SA over the next couple of weeks.  It will also be available online from the HB Direct store from early May.


New Sunsol Oats

Australian cereal brand Sunsol is expanding its popular breakfast offering with the launch of new Sunsol Oats.

Nutritious Sunsol Oats are a good source of fibre, protein, vitamin B1 and contain beta-glucan to help reduce blood cholesterol. As part of a healthy diet low in saturated fat, 3g of beta-glucan is required each day to help lower cholesterol re-absorption.

The new Sunsol Oats varieties also provide consumers a choice of three different textures in firm, medium and soft, as well as quick cooking times to cater to a range of breakfast preferences and busy lifestyles.

Available in convenient 500g packs, the Sunsol Oats varieties have a 12-month shelf life and feature a contemporary upright pack design with the new ‘Australian Grown and Packed’ country of origin labelling. In addition, a shelf-ready carton makes the range easy to merchandise.

Australian owned by Select Harvests, Sunsol offers products that are produced to the highest quality standards. Using a combination of natural ingredients including quality grains, fruits, nuts and seeds, the Sunsol range also includes great tasting and healthy muesli mixes.

Muesli and muesli bars

Carman’s, the 2016 naming rights partner of the Carman’s Women’s Fun Run, will donate 20 cents to the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) for every special edition very pink package of Carman’s muesli and muesli bars that is sold.

The limited edition packaging will feature on Carman’s Super Berry Muesli and Super Berry Muesli Bars, made with cranberries, blueberries and goji berries, which will hit supermarket shelves in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Manufacturer: Carman’s

Launch date: 1 October 2016

Ingredients – Super Berry Muesli:

Whole Grain Oats, Fruit10% (Berries [Cranberries 2%, Goji Berries 1%, Blueberries 1%], Currants, Coconut 2%), Nuts 9% (Almonds, Pecans), Seeds 9% (Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Pepitas1%), Golden Syrup, Sunflower Oil, Cinnamon.

Ingredients – Super Berry Muesli Bars:

Carman’s Muesli Blend 79% (Whole Grain Oats 47%, Fruit [Berries (Cranberries 4.3%, Goji Berries 2.9%, Blueberries 1.4%), Currants, Coconut 2.9%], Seeds 14% [Pepitas, Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds], Sunflower Oil, Nuts 7% (Almonds, Pecans), Golden Syrup, Oat Flour, Cinnamon), Glucose, Natural Vanilla Flavour.

Both these products are suitable for a vegan diet.

GI RATING 50 = LOW GI (Foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) help control hunger and provide more sustained energy).

Shelf Life: 1 year

Packaging: Box

Country of origin: Australia

Brand Website: www.carmanskitchen.com.au


Be Natural relaunches with Coco-Nutty Granola

Be Natural has introduced a number of new granolas, cereals and snack bars with completely new recipes and ingredients. These new products will join Be Natural’s existing cereal range, all under a new-look Be Natural brand.

The leading product in the rebrand is its Coco-nutty Granola, Australia’s first granola designed specifically to be eaten with coconut water.

It contains whole grain and fibre with oven-baked muesli made with spelt, shredded coconut, nuts, seeds or fruits, and is available in two flavours: coconut, almond, spelt & cinnamon as well as coconut, spelt & fig.

According to the company, it is the first granola of its kind to be crafted with ingredients that are specifically formulated to have with coconut water.

According to IBIS World, the soy and almond milk industry experienced growth of 5.9 per cent between 2009-10 and 2014-15 and, as Australian Food News reports, coconut water consumption grew by 540 per cent between 2008 and 2012. Be Natural is responding to an increased demand for breakfast foods that go hand in hand with milk alternatives.

The release of the granola is part of a wider product launch and rebrand for Be Natural, as it looks to bring the health food trend into the mainstream, catering to everyone, everywhere.

Soon to be joining Be Natural’s existing portfolio is an organics range, crunchy granola & seeds bars and muesli & quinoa bars.

Uncle Tobys Oats Quick Sachet range

Uncle Tobys Oats has introduced a tasty new Quick Sachet range, including Apple & Cinnamon and a Fruit Variety Pack.

The Apple & Cinnamon Quick Sachet offers Australian families an easy option for a healthy and filling breakfast. Ready in just 90 seconds, the oats are cut and rolled slightly finer to produce the same great flavour and nutrition, with less cooking time than traditional loose oats.

Filled with premium whole grain oats and no artificial colours or flavours, Apple & Cinnamon Quick Sachets have been awarded a 4 Health Star Rating, providing a delicious and nutritious breakfast option.

International effort to reduce fungal infections in crops

Scientists leverage smart technology to support farmers and improve food safety: globally every year there are several billion Euro losses to cereals and other crops through fungal infection, which also causes harm to human health from toxis (mycotoxins) produced by these moulds.

In a new initiative that is being funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme, a group of scientists, engineers and IT specialists have teamed up to provide knowledge transfer to farmers and other decision makers in the food and feed chains.

Using smart technology available on phones and tablets, decision-making tools will be made available to the agricultural and food communities to guide them in taking the most cost-effective actions to minimise fungal infection and mycotoxin formation.

Advice will be given in real-time and customised to the individual situation taking into account numerous factors including climatic conditions as a means of forecasting potential fungal infection.

The ICC will be responsible for the dissemination of information on the project and its results to a wide audience.

The coordinator of the project, Professor Rudolf Krska from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, who launched the project on 8 March 2016 said “This exciting MyToolBox Project has the potential to save tens of millions of Euros per annum in reduced crop losses, as well as achieve reductions in dietary exposure to mycotoxins, which is immeasurable in terms of benefits to human health”.

Of the 23 partners from 11 countries including China, there is a strong industry presence reflecting the practical significance of this project. Dr Michelle Suman, a world leading manufacturer of pasta in Parma (Italy) and a member of the MyToolBox team said “This project could make a real difference to the cereal  processing industry with the potential to reduce losses of wheat and maize during milling and produced safer products with lower levels of mycotoxins reducing human exposure.”

Cereal science awards announced at ICBC 2016

The 15th International Cereal and Bread Congress (ICBC),  organised by ICC – International Association for Cereal Science and Technology – and ICC’s national representation in Turkey, Hacettepe University, took place on 18-21 April 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The following awards were announced at the conference:

Clyde H. Bailey Medal – the most prestigious ICC Award, for outstanding achievements in the service of cereal science and technology, granted once per four years, was given to: Dr. Peter R. Shewry, Rothamsted Research, UK.

Distinguished Research Fellow at Rothamsted Research and Professor of Plants and Health at the University of Reading, United Kingdom, for his outstanding research on wheat and other cereal grains, ranging from grain structure and functionality to molecular genetics.

Fellowship of the ICC Academy – for those who have made significant contributions to cereal science and the aims and objectives of the ICC was given to: Dr. Elke Arendt, University College of Cork, Ireland

For outstanding activities in cereal related food and health research, notably in the area of gluten free foods and beverages.

Harald Perten Prize – for outstanding achievements in science, research, teaching or transmission of knowledge, which serve cereal sciences and technology – primarily recognizing practical applications in the areas of starch, gluten and enzymes, was given to: Dr. Hamit Köksel, Hacettepe University, Turkey

He has covered areas of gluten, starch and enzymes in his long ambitious list of scientific papers and appearances. Being an active professor in Turkey and worldwide has also lead to extensive transmission of knowledge.

Dr. Matthew Morell, International Rice Research Institute, Philippiness also received an award for outstanding activities in cereal biochemistry and genetics research and research management.

Nutri-Grain’s iced coffee-flavoured breakfast cereal

Nutri-Grain and Ice Break have teamed up to produce the first iced coffee-flavoured breakfast cereal.

The 4 Health Star rated Ice Break flavoured Nutri-Grain cereal is available exclusively at Woolworths for a limited time.

“Many time-poor 18-29 year old Aussies struggle in the mornings, wanting to sleep in rather than eat breakfast and get their coffee fix before they have to run out the door to live their unstoppable lives,” Tamara Howe, Marketing Director at Kellogg’s said.

“This new cereal is our solution to their dilemma. By pouring ice cold milk over delicious, crunchy Ice Break flavoured Nutri-Grain cereal, Aussies will get that real coffee taste they crave,” Howe said.

Ice Break flavoured Nutri-Grain is a great addition to Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain range of cereals. These include the new Nutri-Grain Original and three delicious variants of Nutri-Grain Edge Oat Clusters, all of which are rated 4 Health Stars.

“We hope the result will delight both our Nutri-Grain and Ice Break fans – we think it is delicious, but our customers will be the final judges, of course,” Howe continued.

Freedom Foods acquires Popina Foods and launches in China

Freedom Foods Group has completed the acquisition of Popina Foods, a major Australian manufacturer of oat-based cereals and snacks.

Popina Foods is a recognised leader in cluster format cereal and snacks in Australasia, with manufacturing operations based in Dandenong, Victoria. The acquisition will allow Freedom to have dual manufacturing capability in both allergen free and nut based capabilities and integration opportunities across its milling and ingredients operations.

The purchase price for Popina Foods was approximately $AUD35 million. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to earnings in its first full year of operations and is expected to provide operational efficiencies in the medium term.

Existing oat based manufacturing capabilities at Popina are at capacity, reflecting increased market demand for cluster format cereal and snacks in Australasia and recognition of Popina as a leading manufacturer in this area.

To provide additional capacity to meet the growing demands of existing Popina customers and its branded portfolio as well as capability to grow into China and SE Asia, Freedom Foods has committed to a significant expansion of cereal oven capabilities at Popina’s facility in Dandenong, Victoria.

Freedom Foods is also reviewing options to fast track volume, format and efficiency opportunities across its combined snacking capabilities.

The market for oat based cereal products including cluster and premium muesli porridge formats is expected to grow at a fast pace, driven by demand for better quality oats in existing consumption formats and also changing consumption patterns. 

The demand for high quality Australian origin oats will also be further developed by consumers accessing product through China’s cross border free trade zones and the China Australia Free Trade Agreement that will reduce tariffs on oat based products over the next five years.

With the newly acquired Popina product range and capabilities, Freedom Foods has fast tracked the launch into China of Freedom Foods “Arnolds Farm” cluster and muesli products to coincide with the upcoming 12/12 and Chinese New year promotional periods. 

Why do people decide to go gluten- or wheat-free?

At different times, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and protein have all been targeted as “bad” dietary factors. Right now the focus seems to have shifted to gluten: a protein found in cereal grains, especially wheat but also rye, barley and oats.

For a small proportion of consumers such as those diagnosed with coeliac disease or wheat allergy, the avoidance of wheat and other gluten-containing foods is essential. Symptoms for sufferers can include nausea, vomiting, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue and even very serious conditions such as liver disease.

The prevalence in the population of coeliac disease and wheat allergy, while significant, sits between 1-2%.

But consumer foods labelled as either “gluten-free” or “lactose-free” are growing. And restrictive diets such as paleo – which advocates eliminating grain and dairy products – are also growing in popularity. This suggests a lot more people are making the choice to go gluten- or wheat-free over and above those with a diagnosed allergy.

To understand more about this trend CSIRO conducted a nationwide survey of nearly 1,200 people selected at random from the Australian electoral roll. The aim of the research was not only to quantify the prevalence of wheat avoidance in Australia but also to understand why they made this decision.

Wheat avoidance in Australia

The survey revealed that as many as one in ten Australian adults, or approximately 1.8 million people, were avoiding or limiting their consumption of wheat-based products. Women were more likely to be avoiding wheat than men.

The survey also revealed that more than half (53%) of those who were avoiding wheat were also avoiding dairy-based foods.

Why is this an issue? According to current Australian Dietary Guidelines, grain- and dairy-based foods are important components of a balanced diet. They contribute significantly to the daily dietary fibre and calcium intake of both adults and children. They also deliver other important nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals, and if eating whole grain, resistant starch.


Wheat is also high in fibre, which our body needs. Brenda Wiley/Flickr, CC BY


So why are people choosing to avoid wheat?

The reasons behind this decision are complex. Some respondents reported that they were avoiding wheat due to a diagnosis of coeliac disease (1.1%), or because a family member has been diagnosed with coeliac disease. Others stated they were avoiding wheat for weight-control or taste preferences.

However, the vast majority of the survey’s wheat-avoiding respondents – which equates to 7% of non-coeliac Australians – were avoiding wheat-containing foods to manage a range of adverse symptoms they attributed to the consumption of these products. Symptoms were mostly gastrointestinal in nature (bloating, wind and abdominal cramps) but also included fatigue/tiredness.

When asked if they had any formal diagnosis, including that of an intolerance, allergy or coeliac disease, which required them to avoid wheat, most (84%) of these symptomatic individuals said no.

So what sources are people relying on when it comes to making decisions such as avoiding wheat?

There is a great deal of information that links the consumption of specific foods to adverse symptoms. According to our data, those who decide to eliminate wheat tend to do so based on advice from sources such as complementary practitioners like naturopaths, family, friends, the media and to a lesser extent their GP or a medical specialist.

Is wheat really so bad?

Until recently it was thought that gluten was only really a problem for individuals with coeliac disease. Our findings, plus the extraordinary rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet in Australia and elsewhere, suggest that, apart from coeliac disease and wheat allergy, other conditions associated with the ingestion of wheat are emerging as health care concerns.

Currently, the driver of most of the research activity in this area is the concept of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). NCGS is defined as adverse (but not allergic) reactions to the consumption of gluten, where gastrointestinal symptoms improve on a gluten-free diet.

Many aspects of NCGS remain unclear, including how prevalent it is, how it presents itself, the variation in symptoms and how to treat it. There is also considerable debate as to whether it is in fact gluten or some other component of wheat that triggers the reported symptoms.

Fructans, for example, are short-chain carbohydrates which are found in wheat-based products. For a proportion of the general population, fructans, along with other short-chain carbohydrates (collectively called FODMAPS), can trigger symptoms such as bloating, wind or cramps by holding water in the gut or through the rapid production of gas by intestinal bacteria.

For these people, finding out what is actually causing their symptoms can be difficult because they’re most likely avoiding more than one dietary component at a time.

Until we know more, there’s a risk that a significant proportion of Australians are undertaking diets that are unnecessarily restrictive and potentially creating nutritional imbalances.

That the majority of those with symptoms appear to be bypassing conventional medical advice is also of concern. This means more serious clinical conditions could be going undetected.

The Conversation

Sinead Golley, Postdoctoral research fellow, CSIRO

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