Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 377
Posted on: May 8th, 2018

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

This week’s quote is from Dr Karen Beauchemin, a beef researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. She was discussing a collaborative project between Canadian and Australian researchers to determine which cattle feed supplements would reduce methane output while not affecting the quality and profitability of cattle in beef and dairy production.

“We need to know how feed affects methane production, but we also need to know how it affects other aspects of the farm operation, like daily gains in animals, milk production, and feed efficiency. Farmers want to help the environment, and they need to know what the trade-offs will be, which is why we took a holistic approach looking at the overall impacts.”

The study found that 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP) could potentially inhibit methane production while reducing feed costs.

HOW TO SAVE AUSTRALIA’S REMAINING FARMLAND AS DEMAND FOR HOUSING CONTINUES

Only 10 per cent of the continent is arable and much of that land on the coastal fringe is being swallowed up as state governments respond to the growing demand for affordable housing.

Planning expert Ian Sinclair has spent the past 30 years working for local and state governments in and around the fringe of Sydney. He said the experience with urban sprawl overseas showed it was not enough for councils to just zone farmland as “primary production” [and that a] suite of policies aimed at saving some of the good farmland close to the city was needed.

Here are some of his possible solutions:

Drastically cut rates for agriculture

Mr Sinclair is arguing for massive rate cuts for farmers who live in primary production zones to keep them viable even as land costs rise. He wants to see them reduced by up to 90 per cent.

“Rates for some of the bigger farms can be $10,000 to $20,000 a year,” he said, “it might only be a $10–20 a year increase for the other ratepayers, [but that would enable] the farmers to continue farming and providing food for Sydney.”

Transfer or development rights

The NSW Government is considering an agricultural enterprise credit scheme to reward farmers for productive use of their land, by banking saleable credits based on the value or amount of food produced in any year. That way land in the primary production zone can be given a dollar value that can then be sold to developers. The farmland that has been ‘traded’ is preserved and cannot be used for anything other than farming.

Legislate to create and protect green belts

Another way of protecting agricultural land around major cities is to establish green belts. Mr Sinclair points to the agricultural land reserves established in Vancouver in Canada in the 1960s.

“They have permanently protected the high-value agricultural land that grows blueberries and cranberries as well as vegetables,” he said.

He is opposing the fragmentation of rural land for housing, and introducing cheaper rates for farmers to encourage them to keep producing food.

Is the tide turning?

While some research forecasts the rapid spread of housing into farmland around the major cities, recent figures from the last census suggest the tide may be turning.

Mr Sinclair said the value of production in Sydney […] rose slightly in the last census period.

“In 2011 it was $560m. In 2016 it’s about $645m,” he said.

Mr Sinclair said fresh produce still needed to be grown near the major cities.

“We’re seeing some high-value products grown in the peri-urban areas — beans, broccoli, cabbages, capsicum, cauliflowers, lettuce, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes.”

And Mr Sinclair said while regional NSW, especially the irrigation areas in the Riverina, produced a lot of Sydney’s food, the peri-urban areas around Sydney still produced about 50 per cent of the state’s perishable vegetables.

And people were wanting to farm more”

Source: Claughton, David. ABC News Rural. 13 April 2018.

NIGERIAN WHEAT IMPORTS SET TO SURGE

“Nigeria’s decades-old program to boost wheat production and reduce imports worth more than $4 billion a year has faltered with farmers cutting output because of soaring input costs, leaving foreign suppliers to meet rising domestic demand, officials and farmers’ groups said.

The latest harvest is coming in slowly and output will drop in the current season, Zakari Turaki, head of cereals research at the Lake Chad Research Institute […] said in a phone interview. Many farmers say that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, which took office in 2015, suspended a program to support strategic crops, including wheat subsidies, causing many of them to abandon the grain.

“The problem is that farm inputs, like seeds, are not subsidized and the poor farmer cannot afford to buy it,” said Mala Kachalla, a wheat farmer who spoke by phone from the northern city of Zaria.

Nigeria produced an average of 80,000 tons of wheat a year for decades until the introduction of a new variety in the 2012-13 season that tripled the average yield as more areas were cultivated, according to the Lake Chad Institute. Output fell sharply to 60,000 metric tons in the 2016-17 season after reaching a peak of 350,000 tons in 2013-14, according to Turaki, with farmers also hurt by the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in some of the growing regions. He sees a further production decline in the current season to 50,000 tons.

In contrast, Nigeria’s wheat imports, which reached 4.6 million tons in 2017, are expected to expand by 9 percent to 5 million tons next year and double from that by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as demand surges for wheat-based foods such as pizza, pasta and bread. The West African nation estimates it spends $4 billion to $5 billion annually on wheat imports.

Though wheat is a temperate crop, it grows in irrigated farms in northern Nigeria’s cool, dry season from November to April. Farmers like Kachalla say there’s enough land to grow all of the country’s wheat requirements with government support.

In the absence of government support, many farmers are leaving wheat and adopting other crops that are less expensive to grow. Those who persist are finding it difficult to sell as millers prefer the cheaper imported wheat.

“Flour millers prefer to buy foreign wheat because it is cheaper,” said Abdullahi Argungu, chairman of the wheat farmers association in northwestern Kebbi state.

Wheat imports into Nigeria attract a duty of 20 percent, while flour is charged a 100 percent duty. Imports of wheat flour, pasta, noodles and spaghetti are banned.”

Source: Olurounbi, Ruth. Bloomberg. 12 April 2018.

CHART OF THE WEEK

This chart for this week shows the percentage of global freshwater availability held in a region and the percentage of the global population that region has. Some areas like North and Latin America have large surpluses, the severe deficits in others highlights the substantial and worrying imbalance as neither population growth is slowing nor is the availability of water increasing.

JOKE OF THE WEEK