Australian and international farm policy news

Brexit – aftershocks or opportunity for Australia?

The vote by British citizens in the June referendum to leave the European Union has shocked not only the EU, but also many of the British people. This was evident when it became apparent the British Government had no plans in place to manage the exit process.

There has been enormous amount of speculation and commentary of what may happen in the future, only time will determine what policies are put in place. UK farmers will be eager and lobbying hard to secure funding to support their agricultural industry from their own government. There is little doubt that future funding will not be as lucrative as the current CAP payments under the EU agreement. The Australian wine industry will be watching with great interest, as Britain is its number one destination for exports by volume. Britain is Australia’s seventh largest trading partner and second in the supply of direct foreign investment into Australia. While opportunities for Australian agriculture may not be apparent, the progress in this space will be watched with great interest.

Bird flu devastates central Africa

Countries across west and central Africa are on high alert as highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 continues to spread. Six countries have encountered the virus, these being Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Nigeria continues to be the most affected with 750 outbreaks and 3.5 million birds dead or culled. The FAO is concerned the disease could travel southwards, and international emergency responses have been triggered to help contain the spread.

Avian influzena continues to be a huge biosecurity concern to the poultry industry across the globe. Only 12 months ago up to 48 million birds (turkeys and layer hens) were affected in the Midwest of the US. These outbreaks should act as a caution to those in Australia who advocate that all of the poultry industry should be based on free-range production systems. 

EU dairy industry receives crucial support

Dairy supply continues to exceed demand in world markets, and a market turnaround is not predicted until at least 2017. Low dairy prices are having an impact in both domestic and international markets. In response, the European Commission has announced a suite of measures worth €500 million to support EU dairy farmers.

The three main elements of the funding are: an EU-wide scheme to incentivise a reduction in milk production; conditional adjustment aid (implemented at Member State level); and a range of technical measures to provide greater flexibility (these include early payments and stockholding of milk powder by the EU). This is an additional and separate package from the €500 million made available to the sector by the EU last September via a range of measures, including permitting milk producers to enter into voluntary agreements to limit milk production.

Record wheat crop predicted for 2016/17

In Australia, 2016 is shaping up to be a solid season for winter cereals due to widespread rainfalls from west coast to the east coast. The recent WASDE report (July 2016) shows that global wheat supplies have been increased due to favourable weather conditions in Russia and the Ukraine (an extra 1 million tonnes increase). Along with a smaller increase for production in Argentina, Australia and Canada (0.5 million tonnes increase). These extra increases of production have offset a decrease in the EU, which is largely due to the impact of heavy rain in France (down 1 million tonnes) and Algeria (0.7 million tonnes). The report went on to state total world production is now projected at a record 738.5 million tonnes. Global use is estimated at 729.3 million tonnes, rising due to increased feed usage. This leaves the world wheat stocks at the high level of 253.7 million tonnes. Domestically wheat prices look like continuing in a price trough. This may create some challenges on-farm in covering the cost of production.

New Zealand has a big plan to tackle predators

In July, the NZ Government announced the Predator Free New Zealand 2050 target and its plans to set up a new public-private partnership company by the beginning of 2017. This company will help fund regional large-scale predator eradication programs. The main predators to be targeted are possums, rats and stoats. This program will have positive impacts for farmers and the primary sector. Possums and ferrets are the main carrier of bovine tuberculosis which is very destructive disease for cattle and deer. A great conservation project with agricultural productivity benefits, it will be interesting to observe if the ambitious goals, collective efforts, shared resources and utilisation of current technology can achieve the predator free status in New Zealand by 2050.

Image:  CSIRO