A VICTORIAN Mallee farmer said the fear over what would happen following deregulation of the wheat market has largely evaporated in the ten years since. Chris Kelly, Woomelang, said the deregulated era arrived with a host of unanswered questions.
“Who could guarantee payment like AWB? Who will buy the undesirable wheat? Who will look after grower interests from an industry good function angle and who would independently write recieval standards for future seasons? They were all questions asked by growers,” Mr Kelly said.
He said growers told him they would leave the industry as a result of deregulation but opined the Doomsday scenarios had generally not come to pass.
Mr Kelly, who was strongly in favour of deregulation during the mid 2000s when many farmers still wanted the single desk retained, said farmers had evolved their businesses to reflect the new environment.
“Since deregulation many growers, especially on the east coast of Australia have found investing in on farm storage has enabled them to develop new market relationships with local grain users such as the stock food industry which consumes nine million tonnes of grain each year,” he said.
“Others have found that digital technologies have enabled them to no longer rely on trading houses for pricing intelligence and so with the proliferation of independent grain brokers they have found new ways to manage risk and do business with new market organisations.
“In 2001 average containerised of wheat for export was just 200,000 tonnes but today it can be up to 4 million tonnes in a good year, which highlights the ability of the industry to meet the needs of diverse customers overseas and supply them on time.”
Mr Kelly said the Aussie wheat industry would now look to further value add the product in the face of sustained pressure from low cost producers in the Black Sea region.
“Sustainability is a new trend emerging in global food markets that will enable Australian growers to differentiate their product and market to sensitive food consumers who are looking for pesticide free and sustainable production strategies that meet their social desires.”
He said improved traceability meant having access to the sophisticated record keeping required to access premium, health conscious markets was now very possible for many Australian growers.
“Once impossible in the view of many farmers ten years ago these markets are now an opportunity to gain access to leverage our national food safety credentials, both in terms of opening up new marketing options and getting a better price for our product.
“It is an exciting time to be a wheat farmer today not because of the tonnages we can grow but because of the technologies we can employ.”