Drought impacting on beekeepers

Hive + Wellness has warned that Australia faces a potential honey shortage, as the nation’s beekeepers grapple with some of the most difficult conditions in the industry’s history.

Honey production in the current season is forecast to be the lowest on record, with further declines predicted for 2020/21 if we see no improvement in Australian weather conditions.
A survey conducted by the company amongst its suppliers found that 98% of respondents had been adversely impacted by the ongoing drought, with some beekeepers seeing their production drop to zero. Bushfire and heat had exacerbated already difficult conditions, devastating bee populations as well as their source of food.

READ MORE: A2 Milk expands range to make milk powder with Manuka honey

Ben McKee from Hive + Wellness said: “Australian beekeepers are the forgotten farmers in this drought. Just as livestock farmers have faced challenges in feeding their animals, a lack of flowering trees means beekeepers have struggled to ensure sufficient food for their bees.”

“They are experiencing significant declines in both the population of their hives and in production levels as there is simply not enough nectar for bees to collect. The bees are also affected by water scarcity and the relentless heat.”

The outlook for the 2019/2020 honey season is grim, with expectations of the lowest national crop on record, which has been aggravated by poor honey production in previous seasons.

Bert Seagrave, an Emmaville based beekeeper from the New England region of NSW, and supplier to Hive + Wellness, said: “We are facing the worst honey production in my lifetime, and we are working tirelessly just to keep our bees alive”.

Hive + Wellness is the largest honey packer, marketer and supporter of beekeepers in Australia. Its beekeepers account for a significant proportion of the nation’s honey production.

IoT satellite network to deliver rainfall data to farmers

Australian farmers could soon be looking to the stars rather than the skies for their weather information following the development of a rain gauge that uses a satellite network to transmit remote rainfall data.

South Australian satellite communications company Myriota and Queensland AgTech business Goanna Ag have partnered to develop the ‘everywhere’ solution that they say will unlock the power of remote monitoring at a price and scale never seen before.

Myriota’s direct-to-orbit satellite network for the Internet of Things (IoT) means data from the devices can be transmitted in remote areas without internet or mobile phone coverage.

Goanna Ag has trialled a number of the rain gauges and water tank monitoring devices on Australian farms and is on the verge of commercial release with pricing and distribution currently being finalised.

Pre-orders for the rain gauge and tank monitoring products are open with commercial sales expected to commence in October.

Units are set to include three years of connectivity, data management and app access as standard.

Future iterations of the rain gauges are expected to have smart functionality including point specific weather forecasting generated by the Bureau of Meteorology, aggregated and granular rainfall mapping, and an initial on-the-go yield forecaster for dryland cropping.

Goanna Ag Chief Operating Officer Tom Dowling said the company had been working toward the solution for more than a decade.

“Thanks to our partnership with Myriota we have developed a game changing solution that will drive on-farm efficiencies – particularly around water management and optimization,” he said.

“Our clients know the value that comes from remote monitoring, but until now, the industry has been restricted by coverage and cost issues.”

Making the most of every drop of precious water is a challenge that Australian farmers have been dealing with for decades. This has been compounded by the impact of one of the worst droughts in living memory in many parts of Australia.

Myriota Business Development Executive Tom Rayner said the “everywhere” communication solution was ideally suited to agriculture.

“With ground based communications requiring capital and geographical prioritisation, there will be ‘black spots’ where data is lost, but through this collaboration with Goanna Ag, we have been able to overcome these challenges of cost and connectivity.”

Spun out of the University of South Australia in 2015, Myriota last year raised $15 million through a Series A funding round, with Boeing HorizonX Ventures among the contributors.

In May, it also announced a partnership with cloud-based environmental platform Eagle.io with the aim of preserving global water supplies.

The partnership will provide global software and telemetry solutions for water management issues faced by agricultural players and governments worldwide.

Myriota is based at space and innovation precinct Lot Fourteen in the Adelaide CBD, which is also home to the Australian Space Agency.

This week, fellow South Australian space startup Neumann Space announced it had joined the growing space ecosystem at Lot Fourteen, bolstering the precinct’s reputation as the ideal place for innovative collaboration across high-growth industries.

Neumann Space has also signed an MOU with South Australian nanosatellite company Inovor to provide the thrust propulsion system needed in their nanosatellites.

Funds for drought increased

Farmers and rural and regional communities which have been suffering from drought will  have access to the increased funds available from the Future Drought Fund. The fund will grow from $3.9 billion to $5 billion over the next decade, while facilitating a $100 million a year additional investment into drought resilience and preparedness, even in the good years, every year from 1 July 2020.

The Federal Government said it is backing farmers, and that he Future Drought Fund is about more than just money – it is about giving farmers the best possible tools to face drought, now and in the future.

A consultative committee will soon begin engaging with farmers and rural and regional communities to ensure the money is well spent when the additional funding becomes available from next year.

The Government will work to establish the Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee and put in place rigorous governance arrangements for the appropriate selection and prioritisation of projects.

ANU research uses satellite data to predict drought

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have used new space technology to predict droughts and increased bushfire risk up to five months in advance.

The ANU researchers used data from multiple satellites to measure water below the Earth’s surface with unprecedented precision, and were able to relate this to drought impacts on the vegetation several months later. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Siyuan Tian from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences said the team knew they needed to move into space to get closer to understanding the complex nature of drought.

“The way these satellites measure the presence of water on Earth is mind boggling,” Tian said.

“We’ve been able to use them to detect variations in water availability that affect the growth and condition of grazing land, dryland crops and forests, and that can lead to increased fire risk and farming problems several months down the track.”

Co-researcher Professor Albert van Dijk from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society said combining these data with a computer model simulating the water cycle and plant growth enabled the team to build a detailed picture of the water’s distribution below the surface and likely impacts on the vegetation months later.

“We have always looked up at the sky to predict droughts – but not with too much success,” van Dijk said.

“This new approach – by looking down from space and underground – opens up possibilities to prepare for drought with greater certainty. It will increase the amount of time available to manage the dire impacts of drought, such as bushfires and livestock losses.”

The drought forecasts will be combined with the latest satellite maps of vegetation flammability from the Australian Flammability Monitoring System at ANU to predict how the risk of uncontrollable bushfires will change over the coming months.

The team used the GRACE Follow-On satellites, which were developed by American, German and Australian scientists. ANU Professor Daniel Shaddock led the Australian team.

Dr Paul Tregoning from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences said the GRACE space gravity mission provided a measurement of changes in total water storage anywhere on Earth for the first time.

“Combined with measurements of surface water and top soil moisture from other satellites, this provides the ability to know how much water is available at different depths below the soil,” he said.

“What is innovative and exciting about our work is that we have been able to quantify the available water more accurately than ever before. This leads to more accurate forecasts of vegetation state, as much as five months in advance.”

Coles raises more than $7.1 million for drought appeal

Coles and its customers have contributed more than $7.1 million to the Country Women’s Association of Australia to help drought-affected farmers.

With Coles matching every donation dollar-for-dollar during August and September, customers and the supermarket chain have helped to raise funds for household and family expenses.

Coles also pledged $5m in grants or interest-free loans from the Coles Nurture Fund for farmers who have a project that will help them combat drought in the future.

Country Women’s Association of Australia board member Lyn Harris thanked Coles and its customers for their generous contribution which will go towards supporting drought-affected families where it is needed most.

READ: Climate adaptation project helps local producers cope with drought

Coles Store commercial and property director Thinus Keeve said the company is overwhelmed by the generosity of local shoppers across the country who have shown their support for Australian farming communities by donating at Coles checkouts.

“We are incredibly grateful for this tremendous contribution from our customers and team members who have gone above and beyond to raise funds for the Country Women’s Association drought appeal,” he said.

“[It] will go back to supporting local farmers, growers and producers who are experiencing hardship as a result of the drought,” said Keeve.

The Woolworths group also raised more than $7m for farmers and Harris Farm Market also donated to the drought-stricken communities.

Climate adaptation project helps local producers cope with drought

The Queensland government is investing millions of dollars to help producers better manage drought and climate events with new tools including more reliable forecasting, insurance products and customised climate information.

Visiting the University of Southern Queensland campus at Toowoomba on November 7, minister for agricultural industry development Mark Furner said the $21-million Drought and Climate Adaptation Program (DCAP) was a partnership with leading scientists and industry to assist the grazing, cropping and horticulture industries.

The university is delivering two DCAP projects through the Queensland Drought Mitigation Centre to better understand droughts and climate variability, said Furner.

The Northern Australia Climate Program is an $8m partnership between the Queensland government, the university, and Meat and Livestock Australia Donor Company to help the grazing industry better manage drought and climate risks.

READ: Farmers call for drought policy reform in New South Wales

“The project is improving reliability of multi-week, seasonal and multi-year forecasts, and establishing a network of ‘Climate Mates’ to support the delivery of customised climate information and products into regional networks to help with business decision-making,” said Furner.

The university has also partnered with the Queensland Farmer’s Federation and international insurance company Willis Towers Watson to research and develop innovative and affordable insurance products tailored to Queensland’s cropping and horticulture industries, he said.

The team was working with a local dryland cropping farmer to discuss coverage of production costs if there’s insufficient rainfall/soil moisture during the fallow season, and if viable, this soil moisture index product could have wide usage for dryland cropping throughout Queensland and nationally, said Furner.

“Another local DCAP project is a partnership between the Queensland government and the Bureau of Meteorology looking at improved forecasts for the vegetable industry.

“Improving multi-week and seasonal forecasts and extreme weather events such as storms and heat waves will help improve farm, business and labour management decisions and these are being trialled in the Lockyer Valley and Granite Belt regions,” he said.

“DCAP’s projects will assist our primary producers and the agri-business sector in the Darling Downs and right across Queensland to manage the negative impacts of severe climate events and take better advantage of good seasons when they occur,” said Furner.

Australian orange exports increase but drought still burdens other sectors

Rabobank’s agribusiness October outlook indicates growth in wine and fruit exports, but meat and grains are falling short.

The monthly report shows that fresh orange exports continue to grow in price and volume, as well as wine exports to Canada.

Canada is one of the top wine export destinations for Australia by value.

For July and August 2018, compared to the same period in 2017, Australian exports of all wine to Canada have lifted by about 17 per cent in volume and 7 per cent in value.

READ: Cattle prices trend down as drought conditions increase pressure in market

Fresh orange exports have grown substantially since 2013, with global trade data indicating total Australian fresh orange exports of 197,000 tonnes in 2017.

Global trade data shows that in 2017, key Australian export markets for oranges had increased in value by $107m, which is almost double the 2013 value.

Over the same period, export volumes grew by about 46,000 tonnes, an increase of about 50 per cent on 2013.

Despite growth in some wine and fruit markets, dry weather and frost damaged winter crops in the grains and oilseed sector, with south-west New South Wales missing out on much needed rain over September.

Rabobank reports that parts of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia were hit with frosty conditions, which caused significant damage to crops.

The Frost and ongoing dry conditions have reduced 2018/19 new crop prospects on grains and oilseeds.

Wool supply is set to continue to fall in the coming months and a dry outlook gives downside potential for young cattle.

A three-month outlook of the weather is expected to bring little rain to the country.

Despite the dry conditions, cattle prices lifted slightly or stayed steady throughout September and some rainfall through eastern states provided hope and ability to hold cattle rather than sell them, Rabobank reports.

September slaughter numbers (567,400 head) in the eastern states continue to reflect the drought-induced sales, up 15 per cent year-on-year.

Beef exports for September (91,668 tonnes swt) remain high, up 4 per cent year-on-year.

China remains hungry for Australian beef with exports up 55 per cent year-on-year, however they still remain Australia’s fourth-largest export market behind Japan, the US, and South Korea.

Live exports in comparison to 2017 YTD (August) are up 21 per cent, with stronger volumes to Indonesia and Vietnam throughout the year to date up 10 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

In addition, live exports to countries besides Indonesia and Vietnam (such as Malaysia and Middle East) has increased 195 per cent, since 2017 year-to-date.



Coles increases milk prices to help drought affected farmers

Coles has increased the price of its 3-litre own brand milk from $3.00 to $3.30 in all states to help drought affected farmers.

The price increase started in late-September and will be in place until the end of the year, with 100 per cent of the increase donated to farmers.

Coles and its customers have already committed about $12 million to drought relief, including $5m from the Coles nurture fund to assist drought-affected farmers.

Farmers affected by drought will receive the donations from the milk through the National Farmers’ Federation’s 2018 drought relief fund.

READ: Lamb wins big at Sydney Royal Taste of Excellence Awards despite drought

Coles has been partnering with the federation since 2012, to support Australian farmers.

Coles’ fresh milk is 100 per cent Australian.

For several years, Coles has sold a number of milk brands with a percentage of sales going to support dairy farmers in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

Customers could also make donations at any Coles checkout across Australia for the months of August and September, with Coles matching donations dollar for dollar.

Organisations such as the Australian Red Cross are also helping drought-stricken farmers by offering up the chance to apply for grants.

The Red Cross has $11million worth of grants to give out to farmers, farming families or farming-dependent contractors in drought-affected areas of NSW, ACT or Queensland.

Grants can help people meet household expenses, such as food, vehicle maintenance, school expenses, electricity, gas or rates, telephone expenses and dental or medical expenses.

More than $7 million raised by Woolworths Group and customers for drought-affected farmers

The Woolworths Group, together with its customers, have raised more than $7 million to date for Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale appeal in support of farmers impacted by the drought.

The total includes Woolworths’ initial $1.5m, customer donations made at stores across the group – supermarkets, metro, BWS, Dan Murphy’s and Big W, as well as profits from sales in the fresh departments at Woolworths Supermarkets on the 11th of August.

The money is already being used by Rural Aid to deliver more livestock feed, cover essential household expenses and provide additional counselling support services to farmers in need in rural areas.

Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder said it had been incredible to see the whole nation rally together to help support the strong and resilient Australian farming community during this tough period.

READ: Australian farming sector holding up, despite ongoing drought

“The funds raised by Woolworths are already starting to help farmers who have reached out to us in urgent need of feed for their livestock, as well help with household expenses,” he said.

“Additionally we’ve been able to increase vital counselling services available for farming families in regional communities, with counsellors coming on board in Broken Hill and Lighting Ridge,” said Alder.

Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said the group had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from customers and store teams in support of the Australian farming community.

“Our store teams, particularly in regional and rural areas, have continued to go above and beyond to support fundraising efforts because they know it makes a real difference for those impacted in their local community,” he said.

“We are proud to have collectively raised and donated more than $7m for Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale appeal, and we continue to look at ways to support their work above and beyond fundraising,” said Banducci.

Woolworths is also supporting the organisation with resourcing in the areas of logistics and planning.

Alder said moving livestock feed was a huge logistical challenge, but the group were working really hard with industry partners to support this.

“We are grateful to the additional support the Woolworths Group supply chain has been providing to ensure more hay and much needed supplies are getting to our farmers in need, as quickly as possible,” said Alder.



Australian farming sector holding up, despite ongoing drought

Drought in New South Wales and Queensland is becoming increasingly severe but overall, Australia’s farming sector is holding up well, Growth Farms Australia confirms.

Growth Farms Australia managing director David Sackett said farmers had good operating results and land appreciation over the past few years, which gave them the opportunity to go into the drought in good shape.

Drought was a normal part of the cycle and many farmers had developed “very good strategies” for coping with it, said Sackett.

According to the Australian Farmland Index, since 2014, farm sector income has grown by 6.2 per cent a year and capital appreciation has grown by 6.8 per cent a year, contributing to a total return of 13.2 per cent a year for the sector.

READ: NSW government offers more funding for drought-stricken farmers

Sackett said there was evidence that farmers had used returns in the good years to put a significant amount of their earnings aside to help them through difficult times.

At June 30, the total holdings in the farm management deposits scheme were $6.62 billion.

FMD savings have grown from $4.14 billion in June 2014. In June 1999 total deposits were just $200 million.

The scheme is a risk management tool designed to help primary producers deal with uneven cash flows, allowing them to claim a deduction for deposits that are held in the account for a minimum of 12 months.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has forecast the value of farm production will increase by 1.5 per cent to $61 billion in the 2018/19 financial year.

The value of livestock production is forecast to increase by 3 per cent, while the value of crop production is forecast to remain unchanged, although these forecasts may be hard to achieve given how the current season is unfolding.

“We have seen a lot of government reviews of drought policy; there has been a lot of work on this and there have been plenty of good ideas. The problems seems to be that once we get into the drought, we get all sorts of pressure and we go back to developing policy on the run,” he said.

“We confuse the issue of supporting people who are doing it tough and need welfare, with supporting businesses. The first should be given, the second is a retrograde step,” said Sackett.

When it comes to investing in the sector there are areas that are more prone to volatility and commodities that produce different returns over time.

Managing this volatility requires an understanding of production correlations across regions and price correlations of commodities. For example, southern Queensland and western Victoria have a negative production correlation historically, while prices for beef and wheat also have a negative correlation.

“It is never the case that all regions and all commodities are affected by environmental factors in the same way at the same time,” said Sackett.

“As a portfolio manager, one of the things we look for is flexibility of land use, as it creates options for farming enterprises,” he said.

Growth Farms Australia has recently launched the Australian agricultural lease fund, open to wholesale investors, with a minimum investment of $100,000.

It is a closed-end unit trust with a term of 10 years, although unitholders will have an opportunity to vote on continuing the fund or winding it up after five years.

The fund will acquire farmland and water rights in higher rainfall regions, including North Queensland, Northern New South Wales, the Southern Murray Darling Basin, Victoria and Tasmania and South Australia.


Supermarkets match customer donations dollar-to-dollar to help farmers

Supermarkets in Australia continue to provide farmers with help during the drought, including Coles with its pledge to match customer donations dollar-for-dollar.

Coles’ promise to match customer donations will go for the entire month of August, in order to help farming communities doing it tough due to drought conditions.

The combined donations raised at checkouts and matched by Coles will be provided to the Country Women’s Association to support drought-affected families, to help cover household expenses such as school expenses and food, medical, electricity and water bills.

Coles managing director John Durkan said customers wanted to do more to support families affected by drought.

READ: Sheep and cattle slaughter increases to reduce stock numbers during drought

“For every donation no matter how big or small, our customers can be assured they will be making a difference to the rural communities experiencing hardship and distress,” said Durkan.

The matching donation  is in addition to $5 million already pledged in grants or interest-free loans from the Coles Nurture Fund for farmers who have a project which will help them to combat drought in the future.

Harris Farm Markets also announced it is matching donations dollar-to-dollar in August.

In a release, Tristan Harris, from Harris Farm Markets, said farmers deserved a fair grow and they needed people’s support in these trying times.

From the 2nd of August the supermarkets had donation boxes in all its shops collecting funds for rural aid, for four weeks.

Harris Farm Markets also had a cook-up at all stores in the first weekend of August, selling food for $5 with all proceeds helping provide hay and stock feed for drought-stricken farmers.

On the 11th of August, Woolworths donated all profits from sales in the fresh departments at its supermarkets to the Rural Aid Buy a Bale appeal.

It followed a $1.5 million donation from Woolworths, in July, aimed at supporting farmers impacted by the drought.



Sheep and cattle slaughter increases to reduce stock numbers during drought

As a result of continued drought in the eastern states, the number of sheep, lambs and cattle being slaughtered has steadily increased as producers in effected regions reduce stock numbers.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show and increase in livestock and meat slaughter for June 2018.

Cattle slaughter increased by 5,700 head – 0.9 per cent. This is compared with the previous month and increased by 47,600 head, or 7.8 per cent, year-on-year.

Calf slaughter increased by 615 head, 1.8 per cent, for the month ending June 2018 – compared with the previous month and increased by 3,300 head, 10.3 per cent, year-on-year.

READ: Australian beef exports have increased in key markets such as Japan and China

Sheep slaughter increased by 47,100 head, 5.7 per cent, for the month ending June 2018 –compared with the previous month and increased by 245,400 head, 39.3 per cent, year-on-year.

Lamb slaughter increased by 29,400 head, or 1.4 per cent, for the month ending June 2018 – compared with the previous month and increased by 226,700 head, 12.2 per cent, year-on-year.

Pig slaughter increased by 706 head, 0.2 per cent, for the month ending June 2018 – compared with the previous month and increased by 12,000 head, 2.7 per cent, year-on-year.

With the drought affecting so many farmers, governments and supermarkets are among those helping to provide funds to drought-stricken areas.

Woolworths is supporting drought affected farmers with a $1.5million funding boost to Rural Aid.

Hundreds of farmers will benefit from the $1.5million investment from Woolworths via Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale program, which provides support to farmers in need by delivering hay for cattle feed, as well as other essential items.

The support from Woolworths will also allow Rural Aid to increase the number of counsellors they have supporting farmers and their families impacted by mental health issues as a result of the drought.

Coles is also giving out $5 million in grants and interest-free loans from its nurture fund to help farmers across Australia combat drought.

In the past year, Coles also provided more than half a million dollars in grants to farmers who applied to the Coles nurture fund to implement initiatives to make them less dependent on rain.



Coles announces $5 million to help farmers combat drought

Coles is providing $5 million in grants and interest-free loans from its nurture fund to help farmers across Australia combat drought.

In the past year, Coles also provided more than half a million dollars in grants to farmers who applied to the Coles nurture fund to implement initiatives to make them less dependent on rain.

In Coolac, New South Wales, Michael Crowe from Gobarralong Valley Beef used a $400,000 Coles grant to build facilities to manufacture a nutritious animal fodder indoors – making him less dependent on grass and water.

At Oxley Flats in Victoria, Nigel and Hannah Stephens received a $134,000 grant to install a more efficient irrigation system so they could reduce their water use and grow grass-fed beef all year round.

READ: NSW government offers more funding for drought-stricken farmers

Coles also launched a fundraising appeal at the end of July at its checkouts for people to support farmers struggling with the effects of drought.

All funds raised at the checkout will be provided to the Country Women’s Association to provide support to drought-affected families to help cover household costs such as school expenses and food, medical, electricity and water bills.

Coles managing director John Durkan said Coles was keen to do more to support families affected by drought.

“Many of our team members at stores in drought affected communities have heard harrowing stories from customers about the impact of the drought,” he said.

“Our store teams in these communities have helped by collecting donations of non-perishable food or providing gift cards but we wanted to take action at a national level to help more families facing hardship right now and to help farmers to combat drought in the future,” said Durkan.

Coles’ support will involve a fundraising appeal whereby customers can donate $2, $5, $10 or an amount of their choice at any Coles checkout across Australia, and $5 million in grants or interest free.

The company is also supporting its grass fed beef suppliers by buying their livestock as grain fed beef if the farmers have been forced to feed grain to their cattle during the drought.

Australian beef exports have increased in key markets such as Japan and China

Australian beef exports have increased in key markets as there is a demand for Australian products.

Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) market intelligence manager, Scott Tolmie, said Australian beef exports were up 13 per cent for the year-to-date (January to June) with key markets, such as Japan, Korea and China, recording double digit growth.

“Australian beef exports are now forecast to increase 10 per cent in 2018, to 1.11 million tonnes shipped weight,” he said.

Live cattle exports have also increased over the past six months – lifting 23 per cent year-on-year to 487,000 head, led by increased throughput out of Darwin.

READ: NSW government offers more funding for drought-stricken farmers

Seasonal conditions during spring would play a critical role in how the cattle market tracked, with any improvement to pasture conditions likely to see demand for young cattle and females increase, Tolmie said.

The news of increased exports comes at a time where farmers across Australia are dealing with ongoing drought conditions.

Ongoing dry weather, combined with a surge in female turn-off, has seen Australian cattle slaughter forecasts revised upwards to 7.8 million head for 2018, 9 per cent higher than the 2017 total, according to MLA cattle industry projections mid-year update.

For the first five months of 2018, Australian adult cattle slaughter totalled 3.1 million head – an increase of 11 per cent, or 300,000 head, from the same period last year. But this was still 7 per cent below the five-year average.

Tolmie said female cattle had largely driven the year-on-year increase, with a 21 per cent rise in the number of cows and heifers processed, and a modest 2 per cent lift in male cattle slaughter.

“Female cattle slaughter in May almost reached 403,200 head – the highest monthly volume since July 2015,” he said.

“Persistent dry conditions have seen the average national adult carcase weight forecast for the 2018 calendar year revised downwards, to 292kg/head. However, the upwards revision to slaughter more than outweighs the expected drop in carcase weights, with beef production for 2018 now forecast to increase 7 per cent to 2.3 million tonnes carcase weight,” said Tolmie.

While slaughter levels were expected to remain elevated, and a modest contraction in the national herd is forecast, the inundation of supply, and subsequent price reaction which the industry experienced in 2013-2015 was not anticipated to repeat itself, he said.

“The weight of supply placed some pressure on prices throughout autumn, particularly for young cattle. However, falls could have been much more pronounced if not for strong growth in some key Asian export markets,” said Tolmie.

“Demand in these markets has held firm in the face of increased product coming from both Australia and the United States. The flow-on for producers domestically has been continued price-support for finished cattle, cows and feeder suitable cattle,” he said.







NSW government offers more funding for drought-stricken farmers

The NSW government has released a $500 million emergency drought relief package as 99 per cent of NSW is in drought.

This takes the total support to more than $1 billion, as farmers struggle with the worsening drought.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said farmers were facing one of the driest winters on record, resulting in failing crops, drastic water shortages and a diminishing supply of fodder to sustain livestock.

Farmers had told Berejiklian they needed urgent help, she said.

READ: Dry weather in Australia significantly impacting crops

“To date we have already committed $584m in drought support, most of which is focused on preparation for drought conditions. However, conditions are now so dire that further support is needed to address the more immediate needs for farmers and their communities until the drought breaks.”

The major feature of the emergency relief package is about $190m for the introduction of drought transport subsidies.

The subsidies cover up to 50 per cent of the full cost of transporting fodder, water for stock and livestock to pasture, slaughter or sale.

The NSW government will offer a transport subsidy of up to $20,000 per farm business.

The relief measure will also be back-dated so farmers can access additional subsidies for freight expenses incurred since January 1, 2018.

Deputy premier and minister for regional NSW, John Barilaro, said the drought had quickly worsened across the state because June and July were drier than expected.

Farmers are sourcing fodder from interstate, as local supply has deteriorated.

“We said we would constantly reassess the conditions and relief measures, and the fact we’ve now increased our drought-relief package to over $1b is a reflection of how serious this drought is, and how much we value the health and wellbeing of our farming and regional communities,” said Barilaro.

“We have backdated this relief measure to the start of the year when the drought intensified, especially in the Upper Hunter and Western NSW. This means eligible farmers who made the decision to destock earlier this year will still benefit from this new relief package.”

Minister for primary industries Niall Blair said waivers were in place on local land services annual rates, fixed charges on water licences, registration costs for class one agricultural vehicles, and interest on existing farm innovation fund loans.

“We know many families are also having to bring in water for domestic use, which is why we have also set aside additional funding for this essential service. The package we have has to be fair, it has to be equitable and it has to be able to be adapted to all types of farming businesses right across NSW.”

How climate change is affecting Australian food producers

The price, quality and seasonality of Australia’s food is increasingly being affected by climate change with Australia’s future food security under threat, a ground-breaking report by the Climate Council has revealed.

Australia’s food supply chain is highly exposed to disruption from increasing extreme weather events driven by climate change with farmers already struggling to cope with more frequent and intense droughts and changing weather patterns, the Feeding a Hungry Nation: Climate Change, Food and Farming in Australia report found.
The Climate Council’s Professor Lesley Hughes said Australia’s agricultural competitiveness in many agricultural markets will be challenged by the warming climate and changing weather patterns.
"Australia is one of the most vulnerable developed countries in the world to climate change impacts," she said.
"This is already posing very significant challenges to food production. Food prices will continue to go up, the quality of food could be compromised and the seasonality of food could change as the climate continues to warm and weather patterns become more unpredictable.
"Many of our favourite foods, including milk, fruit, vegetables, wine and beef are already being affected by climate change and these impacts will grow as weather extremes get worse."
The report also found:
Climate change impacts are already being observed in many of Australia’s favourite foods, including rice, lamb, milk, beef, stone fruits and wine grapes
Climate change is projected to worsen drought conditions with severe implications for farmers and food prices
Climate change is affecting the quality and seasonal availability of many foods in Australia. Up to 70% of Australia’s wine-growing regions with a Mediterranean climate (including iconic locations such as the Barossa Valley and Margaret River) are becoming less suitable for grape growing with higher temperatures causing earlier ripening and reduced grape quality
More frequent and intense heatwaves are already affecting food prices in Australia. Food prices during the 2005-2007 drought increased at twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) with fresh fruit and vegetables the worst hit, increasing 43% and 33% respectively. Cyclone Larry destroyed 90% of the North Queensland banana crop in 2006, affecting supply for nine months and increasing prices by 500%
“All animals struggle during heatwaves and dairy cows are particularly vulnerable. It’s not unusual for their milk production to drop overnight by up to 40%,” Illawarra dairy farmer Lynne Strong said.
“We’ve taken lots of small steps on our farm, including putting in thousands of shade trees and installing sprinklers in the dairy, to protect the cows during these extreme weather events. However, if they continue to increase the only option for many dairy farmers will be to house their cows in air-conditioned sheds. If this happens, milk may become a luxury item.
“Farmers can play a really important role in delivering climate change solutions through producing their own renewable energy and implementing sustainable farming systems that increase carbon storage in vegetation and soils.
“But we can’t fight climate change alone. We need to be backed by greater action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we’re to protect both the livelihood of farmers and the integrity of Australia’s food supply.”
Professor Tim Flannery said there was no room for complacency in planning for our future food security.
“Large parts of Australia are currently in drought including a record 80 per cent of Queensland,” he said.
“We are watching the realities of a warming world unfold before our eyes and the impacts on everyday Australian households as food prices and food availability become more volatile and affect the economies and social fabric of those communities that rely on agricultural production.
“Australian farmers have demonstrated great resilience in the face of harsh physical and social challenges. But if the present rate of climate change continues, there will be many challenges to which adaptation is simply not possible.
“We must urgently transition to a new low carbon economy if we are to adequately safeguard our food supply.”