What’s new in Australia’s grain industry?

The Australian grain industry is an ever-changing landscape. Farmers have to contend with international pressure around agricultural practices, meanwhile a challenging climate means they can't predict how each new season is going to pan out. 

We look at current Australian grain industry news and future predictions.

Key issues in the ABARES crop report

In May the Department of Agriculture took the unusual step of arranging to import wheat into Australia despite widespread concerns for biosecurity. The import, which arrived at the beginning of June, is a result of falling grain production across many parts of Australia. We look at the most recent ABARES (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences) report to find out what's happening in Australia's grain industry.

Farmers suffered a shorter summer planting window and less favourable soil conditions.

The last report in February 2019 explains that a drier than average 2018-19 season led to reduced planting and lower than anticipated crop production. Farmers suffered a shorter summer planting window and less favourable soil conditions due to lower than normal moisture levels. ABARES estimate that the total area planted is down by 23 per cent in 2018-19 and forecast summer crop production to decrease by 33 per cent across the country. The situation affected a variety of crops, including grain sorghum, rice and cotton, with the latter two being more heavily impacted.

Queensland suffered from high temperatures alongside the low rainfall, but cotton production is also down in part to a small planting area. There is also a significant decrease in chickpea production in the north easterly state, due to both the area planted and central region frosts, driving total winter output down.

Victoria has seen more area used for hay which has driven production down, with a similar story in South Australia. The report does note that South Australia's wheat quality was good, despite production having fallen.

However, it's not all bad news, with winter crop production in 2018 beating forecasts in Western Australia, with only Canola reporting a production decrease.

The future of chemical pesticides

Last year the GDRC published a report on the future of the grains industry, focusing specifically on the access to and development of chemical pesticides. Each country is able to regulate its own chemical use, and the GDRC report highlights concerns that Australia is being left behind, and our farmers no longer have access to the most competitive crop protection tools. 

They say that Australia must look at commercial investment in new crop protection products. One of the problems they cite is that although Australia is marketing new chemicals, they're not applicable to as wide a range of crops as those being released in areas such as North America. 

The Australian grain industry needs to consider how they will continue to meet demand while adopting new methods of chemical crop protection as well as how they'll support the investment required to make use of the best available technology.

Keeping up with chemical crop protection.Australia needs to keep up with developments around chemical crop protection.

Technology and the crop industry

Emerging technologies are playing a crucial role in the Australian farming industry, with local innovators reported as being key in developing new systems, attracting investment and ensuring the country benefits from the latest knowledge.

Over the last couple of years, Australian-run organisations have produced developments worth millions of dollars to help them produce more, assess and mitigate risk, as well as collect data to provide better overall visibility. As importantly, Australian farmers are reportedly very happy to adopt new technologies, and are a good testing ground thanks to regional climate variations.

Recent developments vary across the spectrum of AgTech, which typically includes technology that makes use of satellites, drones, artificial intelligence and automation. Csiro have recently developed an app to allow farmers to forecast grain yield at the touch of a button, and they're finding ways to protect the environment while maintaining high performance. Meanwhile, South Australian Research and Development Institute developed a device to monitor airborne pests and diseases, enabling farmers to react as required to protect their crop. 

New technologies remove a lot of the guesswork required by farmers, and enable them to improve the likelihood of good output.

Essentially, these new technologies remove a lot of the guesswork required by farmers, and enable them to improve the likelihood of good output. Developments allow farmers to receive much more detailed weather forecasting so that they can adapt their real-time irrigation and water management processes to improve their output. Cloud-based and artificial intelligence models are constantly updating and allowing farm managers to plan more accurately than ever before. It's not just technology that manages crop production that's having an impact, with virtual fences and animal sensors playing a role in essential risk management.

Crop insurance to support farm risk management practices

Crop insurance is there to help farmers manage change and survive the difficult seasons. At Primacy, we cover a range of crop types and a variety of perils. Take a look at our crop insurance policies to find out how we protect Australia's farmers.