WITH the ongoing drought and bushfire crisis sparking concerns about hay supplies in coming months, the Australian Fodder Industry Association is calling for a national database to provide better insight into stocks and demand.
AFIA chief executive John McKew spoke about the need for reliable fodder information at the Bushfire Roundtable Meeting hosted by Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie in Canberra last week.
"Industry representatives continually ask 'how much fodder is in the system? Where is it going? How much is there in reserves?'", he said.
"Quantitatively - I don't know. The industry doesn't know. That information is not recorded for domestic fodder production and sales. What we know is qualitative information.
"But in times like this - drought and bushfire recovery - there needs to be more transparency in the market so Australian agriculture has the capacity to forecast feed requirements and plan.
Australia will not necessarily run out of fodder, but the quantities available for trading ... could run out.
"It is something everyone wants, it was mentioned by the grains industry, and there's value across a lot of industries, but it is a hard nut to crack."
Mr McKew said the need for improved data was a theme of the discussions at the Bushfire Roundtable Meeting.
While acknowledging that the meeting was a first step in a long process, Mr McKew was buoyed by the Department of Agriculture's "sympathetic ear" regarding the database.
He hoped government involvement would provide the much-needed assistance and funding, which had previously been lacking, to develop a model to allow Australia's agricultural industry to better manage seasonal risk.
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Mr McKew also used his address to the Roundtable to praise the agriculture sector for uniting to donate fodder and freight to fire-affected farmers.
But he stressed the urgent need for fodder in bushfire-hit regions would further deplete the nation's low stocks.
"Australia will not necessarily run out of fodder, but the quantities available for trading - available for those who need to buy it in quantity - could run out," he said.
"AFIA has been told that some farmers with stocks of hay have held off putting it into the marketplace due to the uncertainty clouding the season and a need to sustain their own livestock enterprise."
Mr McKew stressed that importing fodder was not an option, no matter how much supplies tightened.
"The biosecurity risk is too high, and the Agriculture Department has said that in the past, too," he said.
"We could potentially end up with a lot of worse problems linked to imported weeds and diseases."
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