Speakers hone in on growth

Claire TyrrellCountryman
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Speakers at this year's WA Agribusiness Crop updates honed in on the critical role of the State's farmers to the global food chain.

State Agriculture Minister Terry Redman released results of the Bridging the Yield Gap survey, which highlighted the performance of WA's top 25 grain growers.

During his opening address, Mr Redman said the key link between the top 25 growers was their focus on profits.

"These growers did not have bigger farms, better soils, more rain or less debt than other growers," he said.

"They are profit-focused, flexible, understood the risks and were much more efficient than most growers."

Mr Redman said the major challenge over the next few years would be to transfer the knowledge acquired through the survey to the majority of WA's farmers.

With fewer Department of Agriculture and Food WA regional research stations, Mr Redman said grower groups and private consultants would likely play a key role in disseminating this information.

Mr Redman said the department's partnerships with research and development providers would be increasingly important in the future.

"If we are going to spend a dollar doing something, it has to make a difference," he said. "We are not going back to the days of the 1960s where we had a lot of local offices."

Mr Redman said grower "engagement with support services" including agribusiness professionals and grower groups was vital.

He highlighted the potential for further productivity growth, even among the State's top growers.

"There is still room for improvement on maximising the value of what we grow," he said. "There is money in agriculture."

Mr Redman stressed the need to attract "the best and brightest" into WA's farm sector so the industry could capitalise on its growth potential.

CSIRO honorary fellow Tony Fischer spoke about Australia's competition in the global grains market.

He presented his analysis of terms of trade and total factor productivity in the world's agricultural production and highlighted the importance of research and development.

He showed a strong link between investment in research and a country's growth in agricultural productivity.

Dr Fischer drew on his studies of agricultural innovations around the world, including the use of plastic sprays to reduce evaporation in crops. He said this technology, used in China, could be honed for use in Australian environments.

Rabobank head of corporate financial services Paul Biebor spoke about the impact of the Eurozone debt crisis on world grain prices.

Mr Biebor gave a fairly bullish outlook for grain prices in the short to medium term, which he attributed to demand growth in China.

GrainGrowers general manager of technical services Ken Quail addressed the issue of what the world wanted in Australian wheat.

He said there was a strong demand for Australian wheat into the future, particularly in Asian countries.

Mr Quail examined industry changes since grain market deregulation and suggested there was a need for more on-the-ground support for Australia's wheat importers.

Other topics covered at the event included marketing opportunities for Australian grain and factors likely to impact on demand growth of agricultural commodities.

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