SA grains in the box seat: Kingwell

SA grains in the box seat: Kingwell

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The SA grain industry is well-placed to service the country's growing livestock production to feed our increasing population, so it may need to renew its focus on the domestic market.

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THE state's grain industry is well-placed to service the country's growing livestock production to feed our increasing population, so it may need to renew its focus on the domestic market.

That's according to Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre chief economist Ross Kingwell, who was a guest speaker at the GRDC's two-day research update in Adelaide this week.

Mr Kingwell talked about opportunities and issues faced by the southern Australian grains industry in the next decade, including climate variation, population growth and dietary habits, highlighting findings in AEGIC's recent Australia's Grain Outlook 2030 report.

While the majority of SA grain is exported, Mr Kingwell said growers were increasing on-farm storage, particularly in higher rainfall areas, in an attempt to capture the best price for their grain and that could facilitate more domestic marketing.

"With our drying, warming climate, agricultural livestock production will become more dependent on supplementary fodder and grain feeding," he said.

"Meat and wool prices will also stay firm so grain demand for finishing those animals will remain and SA is well-placed to capture that."

Australia's population is also expected to increase by another five million in the next decade, and Mr Kingwell estimated three-quarters of that growth would be on the east coast.

"If there is another 5m people, that's at least another 800,000 tonnes of grain needed for human consumption," he said.

"That grain has to come out of SA and WA, where the population growth will not be as dramatic."

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Mr Kingwell also highlighted that average meat consumption remained "remarkably" stable, despite media talk of increasing vegetarianism and climate change concerns.

"It may have an effect one day, but it's not at the moment," he said.

"Our per capita meat consumption of about 104 kilograms to 108kg per head isn't changing much - it hasn't for decades - just our mix of meats is.

"In Australia, any decline in beef and lamb consumption has been offset by increased chicken and pork consumption.

"This is good news as the production of those meats is hugely dependent on grain.

"But beef and lamb has also become so valuable that it pays for farmers to be feeding them grain.

"In the next decade, we are going to have to produce another 2.5mt of feed grain just to service the growth in demand - and that feed demand is on SA's doorstep."

But Mr Kingwell said SA's export market focus would also have some upsides.

"People in overseas markets are becoming richer, which is altering the types of foods they buy, changing the sorts of grains they demand, but those diets are changing to our advantage," he said.

"In China, per capita consumption of wheat continues to increase, as does their indirect consumption of grains, such as malt for beer, meat and dairy production.

"The only downside is that Australia is no longer perceived to be a reliable provider of low-cost grain, so we have lost market share in places like Indonesia and the Middle East and I don't see that changing.

"It is fortunate that the Aussie dollar has depreciated, giving us some protection in overseas markets. But we will feel constant price pressures over the next decade."

But Mr Kingwell remained positive SA farmers were well-positioned to not only continue to access lucrative export markets, but, because of its lower population, be prime to service increasing east coast demand.

Mr Kingwell was among 35 speakers at the GRDC event, attended by about 450 farmers, advisors and industry stakeholders.

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