Good times on way: industry chief


Amid the tide of concern surrounding difficult seasons, farm debt and equity levels, costs, commodity prices, foreign investment and other factors, self-confessed agriculture and mechanisation industry campaigner John Henchy forecasts a bigger wave of opportunity for the sector.

It is based on the core fundamental that in 2050, just 37 years away, there will be nine billion people in the world that need to be fed.

“And they can’t eat iron ore or drink oil, ” Mr Henchy, who is executive officer of the Farm Machinery and Industry Association of WA, told Farmpower machinery dealer group staff at its inaugural conference at El Caballo Resort earlier this month.

“To do this, our food production needs to double.

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“The positive for WA is that Asian countries will drive it. There are now higher incomes, increased sophistication, a rising middle class and a growing appetite for quality food in the region.

“We are largely a ‘green’ food producer, which is increasingly demanded around the world.

“The agriculture and agribusiness industry is enormous and I don’t think a lot of people realise the opportunity.

“The world has to eat. There is not one house that does not rely on agriculture for survival.

“So there is a huge wave of opportunity coming for agriculture. It will be the start of an era we have not seen before. It won’t be easy – business is never easy — but if there’s an opportunity, let’s grab it.”

He remembered the times when farmers were proud to go the pub and say they produced a three-tonne per hectare crop —“it was the 3t club”.

“Now there’s areas of the State, granted in higher rainfall zones, where they are producing 8t/ha crops in small areas, but still a positive.”

“So there are places where crops have doubled and trebled. I recently spoke to a farmer in the east and he had 12t/ha on his screen — admittedly for only 200 metres, but still an excellent result.”

Mr Henchy said foreign investment was a vexed issue in agriculture, but Australia had always relied on external investment to survive across many industries.

“We could see it as an essential opportunity to get ag cashed-up.” He said.

“The Chinese and others are seeing the opportunity, so why can’t we.

“Yes, money is coming in and it is buying farms, but they still need the people and the machinery to produce the food..”

He summed up the pivotal role for the mechanisation industry in the new era: “without it, agriculture stops”.

“The mechanisation industry has done more for the productivity of agriculture than any other industry.”

“The technological advancements have been amazing and if you think the last decade for technology has been great than wait for the next 10 years.

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