Horticultural Production and viability is determined by many onsite and offsite decisions as well as external relationships which determine the ultimate decisions we make.
These include the
* Rising Production costs: Rising costs are found within every industry and agriculture is no exception.
* Geography: The geography of the land, water, soils, salinity and aspect will determine the type of farming operation suitable to that particular location.
* Climate: The climate and even microclimates can determine the viability of a farm. Global Warming problems were dealt with under Chapter 19 Global Challengers in Agriculture so will not be dealt with here.
* International Markets determine the cost of many products.
* Logistics: The logistics of food handling is 2 fold in the timing of the operation needs to be swift and at the same time has to meet stringent health requirements.
* Types of Farming Operations: Deals directly with the type of crops grown.
* Capital Constraints: Vary greatly on the property and the crops grown.
* Efficiencies and Regulations: The efficiency of an enterprise often directly relates to the support of governments and their regulations in connection to health requirements, marketing & direct support for certain sectors.
* Rising Production costs both at the farm gate and beyond the farm gate need addressing.
1. The cost of labour in the 2 countries compared to the overall cost of living needs to be included along with the size of the land holdings logistics, machinery costs and regulatory costs which all determine the input costs of the farmer’s product.
Recently Mr. Chandler stated that ”Australia holds the unfortunate title as Number One for the cost of producing grain at US$146 a tonne, compared to Ukraine at US$136 a tonne.” This is a very unfair, simplistic comparison to make as many factors play out to grow a tonne of grain and to blame one sector, I believe is irresponsible.
He made this comment immediately after complaining about the high cost of labour on Australian farms. This for a start is a comparison against the American dollar and not the real cost associated with there own economies or the buying power within their economy. Statements like this are antagonistic and do nothing to help the plight of farmers or farm workers.
Farm labourers in Australia worked an average of 50 hours a week in 2013 for an average wage of 35,000 for the year. This is not excessive when you compare this with the average wage of all Australians yet it is still a considerable amount especially in years when prices are depressed or climatic conditions were unfavourable.
As the real cost of living increases across the nation so does the demand for increased wages by labourers and the farming sector is not immune to this vicious circle played out between companies often oblivious to the flow on effects they are causing. Every small crop farmer, orchardist, aquaculturalist, floraculturalist, siviculturalist and grain grower is forced to assess its opportunities, scale of production and costs against his or her labour and capital to external business operations.
In larger enterprises, each unit of labour to return may become greater and the need to justify each phase against the larger production rates and the smaller return per parcel. On smaller family farms this is often reversed where the labour cost is considered lower due to family members having the major input and is often below that of the real wage and the cost of land is high. This in return relates to the scale of production, limited incentive to invest in scale dependant technology.
Most small holdings invest in variable farm products like the Dairy farmer who grows some cash crops or the vegetable farmer who dapples in a few nut trees, fruit trees or ducks or chickens to exist instead of making a determined effort to seek a slightly larger scale and gain the advantages of technology in that field. Permaculture production is not the same as an extra product being grown as an adjunct crop.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.1>>
Figures taken from the Australian Year Book and census data.
2. Size: The size of a holding and the type of enterprise will determine what crops need to be grown for viability. The following graph is a good starting point to illustrate the affect that size has on a product produced and the use of biotechnology.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.2>>
Now if we consider the farm gate price of grain averaged $615 a tonne on the 29:12:2014 then the farmer in the Ukraine based on the 2005 production rates may have made $479 a tonne profit on 4 tonnes per hectare or $1916.00 a hectare while the Australian farmer could make $469 a tonne profit on 5.4 tonnes per hectare or $2532.60 a hectare. Coupled with this is the opportunity that the Australian farmer has an average land holding of 4, 5 or even 200 times that of his Ukrainian farming counterpart then there is a big difference in the actual profit being realised on their respective farms.
- The cost of actually running a farm like any other business fall into 2 catagories the fixed costs and the variable costs and both must be considered before a decision is made whether to farm or not to farm, change the method of farming, change the crops grown, introduce new technology or to change the output of the farm.
* The fixed costs are not directly attributed to the level of production and must be met whether anything is produced or not. Some costs like wages can be both fixed and variable. A permanent worker’s wages are fixed but an itinerant worker or a casual worker’s wage would be variable as they would vary on the production increase, decrease or seasonal factors on the farm. These include costs associated with the family on the farm, bank chargers and interest paid on loans, replacement of capital items, government charges and taxes, industry levies and fees, administration, insurances, telephone, vehicle maintenance and registration, farm infrastructure and rates.
* The variable costs are those associated with the actual running of the farm and usually vary as a result of the production increasing or decreasing. These include fuel and other energy charges, transport, cartons or packaging, itinerate or casual labour, fertilizers, mulches, herbicides, insecticides, biological controls and irrigation.
* Family workers usually receive no cash payment for work undertaken but these should be included in costings against the business for all intended purposes.
* Capital investments are considered as depreciating costs on their value at the time of replacement.
The geography of the land, the availability and quality of the water, the types of soils with their physical properties, salinity and aspect will determine the ultimate type of farming operation suitable to that particular location with the type of crops grown.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.3>>
The vertosol soils along with ferrosol, dermosol and kandosol soils are the better agricultural soils in Australia because of their texture, physical properties ability to hold water and their overall better mineral value despite being poor compared to most European, Asian and North American continental soils.
Vertosol soils are the most common soil in Queensland, covering 29 per cent of the State of Queensland and are characterized by their colour which includes deep brown, grey or black soils. The soils shrink, crack open when dry and expand greatly when wet. They commonly form hummocky reliefs called Gilgai with very high soil fertility and the ability of soil to supply plant nutrients. They have a large water holding capacity.
Ferrosols and Dermosols are well drained soils which are red or yellow-brown in colour and have clay-loam to clay textures. These soil types are usually associated with volcanic landscapes of basalt, and are mainly located along the Great Dividing Range.
Dermosols are red, brown, yellow, grey or black coloured and have a loam to clay textures. These types of soil are mainly found throughout the higher rainfall coastal and sub-coastal forested regions.
Kandosols are red, yellow and grey massive earthy soils. They generally have a sandy to loamy surface soil, grading to porous sandy clay sub soils with low fertility and poor water holding capacity. A wide range of crops can be grown on these soils where rainfall is higher, where irrigation is available and additional nutrients are added to the soil. They make ideal organic farming soils.
I have covered soil properties in the file Soils N Rocks with the CSIRO map under soil properties.
Water has been dealt with in detail from different aspects in chapter 19 Global changes in Agriculture and Chapter 21 which deals with Water and land management.
Salt pans and dead zones
Salt and productivity
I have covered Acid Sulphate soils in Chapter 21 which deals with Water and land management. Saline soils are usually associated with watering problems or evaporation from periodic water flows. Most farmers and agriculturalists in the past have considered these locations uninspiring and lack any real chance of being commercially viable. As a result salt pans have been environmentally spared most the damage incurred by most other environments. The noticeable exception is that of cattle, sheep and feral animal grazing which has reduced some specie in some areas.
Below I will deal with some of the problems associated the problems have been human induced. Salt lakes and salt pans are nothing new in Australia as they were here prior to white settlement. What is new and of great concern is the rate in which human intervention has created a monster that may not be fixed for millions of years.
Salinisation: Small white, crusty deposit accumulating on bare patches of cleared agricultural land is salt. This is a visible sign of increasing salinity in our landscape and is known as “Dry land salinity”. Less visible though still a huge growing problem, are the rising salinity levels in our water resources. Some lakes are naturally saline like the salt lakes in the eastern Avon catchment in southern Western Australia and around Lake Eyre in South Australia. Now previously fresh lakes have become saline, the dead vegetation and salt encrustations are the visible evidence that something is drastically wrong. Those errors of the past are now haunting every farmer and every environment on flats and plains and are the conversation point at every meal – rising salinity levels.
Both salt water intrusion and rising surface saline water from deeper aquifers are costing Australian’s an estimated 130 million dollars a year and is expected to rise to over 260 million dollars by 2050 on today’s values.
Salt Water Intrusion (SWI) is the landward migration of sea water into freshwater coastal aquifers. Most freshwater resources which are confined to coastal aquifers are particularly susceptible to SWI due to their proximity to sea water due to the increased water demands that occur when human pressures exist. SWI most often occurs in coastal aquifer systems where groundwater extraction for agriculture, industrial, recreational and domestic use exceeds water recharge resulting in the equilibrium being disturbed favouring the sea water which moves into the growing void.
Other anthropogenic disturbances to hydrological systems, such as those that occur through urbanization, Canal developments (Gold Coast) and development of drainage canals, can also contribute strongly to SWI. SWI may also result from natural processes which include geological coastal disturbances like earthquakes, river delta deposits, tidal movements and long term historic sea level changes, flooding, and climate variability, all of which can alter the hydrology of small shallow aquifer systems.
Coastal aquifers that are in hydraulic contact with sea water, an interface exists whereby less dense fresh water which sits above, and adjacent to, a denser, saltwater wedge. Because salt water has a greater density than fresh water, it moves in the form of a saltwater wedge beneath the fresh water. This wedge often occurs on the landward side of the coastline and can potentially extend from tens of metres through to several kilometers beneath freshwater reserves in some systems.
Fresh groundwater stored in Australian coastal aquifers is an important resource for the natural environment, as well as for agricultural especially the fresh fruit and vegetable market and sugar cane which traditionally uses the fertile flood plains along the coast.
These aquifers are also the ones most at risk of SWI.
The risks of Australia’s coastal aquifers to SWI are of current concern and also an area of increasing future concern. The increasing demands for fresh water in coastal areas, coupled with climate changed rises in sea levels and variations in rainfall recharge will result in increases in the incidence and severity of SWI. An urgent assessment is needed to address the scarcity of knowledge and what reliance levels urbanization has on the various aquifer systems around the Australian coastline.
The Australian sugar cane industry accounts for about 400,000 hectares while fresh vegetables along the coast accounts for a further 100,000 hectares.
Rising salt water in semi arid and arid regions this menacing rise is estimated to affect 10% of the present arable land and could rise to 50% by 2050.
Surprisingly my English and History teacher spoke of salinity as being the demise of many cultures in history. This was back in the 1960 so why did it take Australian farmers and officials until the year 2000 to do something?
Australian agricultural, water, infrastructure and biodiversity assets at high risk from shallow water tables or with a high salinity hazard now and in 20 and 50 years time.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.10>>
The cost to agriculture and the community is huge. The loss of capital and land devaluation is estimated at over $700,000,000 with associated production losses due to the inability of the land to produce crops now stands at over $140,000,000 annually (2000A.D.). This does not cover the costs of revegetation or salt containment.
The cost to the environment is not as easy to ascertain in dollars and cents. Rising salinity levels in water resources and dry land salinity are the biggest environmental problems facing southern Australia.
Riparian vegetation is critical to the stability of the whole river system not just at the point of salinity but also down stream. Stream salinity has increased dramatically, impacting on our surface water resources further down stream. It effects the environment, both aquatic and land, directly it effects those plants and animals that use the water and indirectly those animals that feed on plants and animals in the riparian zones. The fragmentation of environments is another effect that is having devastating consequences on our wildlife.
The cost salinity is having on our rural towns, heritage buildings and infrastructure such as roads and railways is mounting every year, because salt directly affects concrete and bitumen. It causes concrete and cement to crumble and bitumen to become more elastic or soluble. Salinity levels in the Murrumbidgee River are being recorded at increasing by between 0.8% and 15% per annum. These changes to the salinity levels also have dramatic effects on the extractive industries like gravel for concrete, mining operations and drinking and irrigation water. The costs in 2000 for Wagga Wagga City Council were around $500,000 in infrastructure maintenance. As the problems become worse desalination of drinking water will be necessary.
The problem in Australia is that Australia is a very old Continent and has been accumulating salt from decomposed rocks that previously had formed below the oceans and salt laden winds that blow in from the surrounding oceans. With limited rainfall in the past the accumulated salts were unable to be carried back to the oceans and instead found there way down through permeable rock to underground aquifers resting on impermeable rocks.
On the arrival of white settlers, the clearing of the land commenced and deforestation of native trees and shrubs was done in favour of annual crops and pastures. The native trees acted like pumps removing excess surface water before it was able to penetrate to the underground aquifer. As the trees were removed more surface water was able to penetrate deeper into the subsoil to the underground aquifers. This has been accelerated with the use of irrigation of the improved pastures. With the water now reaching the aquifer the aquifers began to fill at 20mm to 150mm per year. Eventually these underground reservoirs began to reach the surface in low lying regions and started to overflow into streams. The streams which previously had fresh water were becoming brackish which further accentuated the problems of salinity.
Studies in Western Australia have shown that a typical large, healthy Jarrah tree, in a higher rainfall catchment uses an average of 50 liters of water a day or around 18,250 liters a year. Consider the millions of leaves in a forest or woodland that also catch a lot of rain. Much of this water evaporates without ever reaching the ground. When the trees are cleared and replaced with shallow rooted annual crops and pastures, less water is drawn from the ground surface and with more water falling on the ground during rain the volume of water soaking into the ground may increase more than 10 times. On top of this irrigation water increases the downward flow extraordinarily.
Restoring the water balance
Now that we know haw the problem was caused the problem for all Australians is how we restore the environment, lower the water tables with the salt and satisfy the agriculturalists needs all at the same time. The one thing that is known it is going to take an enormous amount of money, effort and time.
The key to controlling salinity is to get the water balance back into equilibrium. That means using more of the natural surface water and less irrigation water. The main way to do this is to plant trees and deep rooted perennial crops to take surface water from the soil. This is a huge task as some catchments have already lost over 85% of their natural cover and trees do not grow over night. It has been estimated that $3 to 4$ billion will be needed over the next 30 years just to fix this part of the problem. Over 3 million hectares of appropriate trees and shrubs will have to be planted. Can it be done?
The Salinity Strategy
Governments need to urgently adopt a comprehensive Salinity Program where Governments, farmers and the community to work together to:
* Reduce further deterioration of agricultural land by re vegetating all available fallow land,
* Recover or rehabilitate salt affected land with salt tolerant specie
* Protect all natural biological diversity populations especially fragmented sites with an endeavour to rejoin fragmented populations into corridors,
* Protect water resources upstream that have not been affected and rehabilitate effected sections with trees and shrubs,
* Protect infrastructure &
* Give land managers, ranges the capacity to address salinity issues.
All the above planting projects must include a three tier system with mass overcrowded plantings with thinning of the weaker plants on an annual basis.
* Strict clearing controls and bans on clearing of all native vegetation, * Declare all native flora protected similar to that of Australia’s
* Protecting remnant vegetation under the Remnant Vegetation Protection Scheme and to provide funding for fencing. This should be extended to all water courses,
* Research is urgently required on the type and extent of salinity in all areas,
* Improved management of crops and pastures to use more surface water is used from the water cycle and ensure as much as possible of the surface water is channeled into the appropriate river systems,
* Introduction of agro forestry into farming systems with the assistance of Carbon Credits to the farmers
* Mass revegetation of cleared land including roadside verges, railway lines corridors, parks and riverine lines through a large scale tree planting program. The mass planting of shrubs along road and rail corridors would account for about 187,000 hectares. Extending this beyond the actual locations of those roads and railway lines affected by just a few meters as roads and railway lines are higher than the surrounding land and on old road reserves over 2% of the affected land area can be reclaimed.
The climate and even microclimates can determine the viability of a farm. Global Warming problems were dealt with under Chapter 19 Global Challengers in Agriculture and weather was dealt with under the file Weather so will not be dealt with here.
In one respect Australia may have poor quality soils but on the other hand the weather in most parts is conducive for growing crops throughout the year. Unlike parts of Europe, Russia, China, Canada and North America, which are snowed in during the winter which makes all year round growing impossible? The short days also makes it unviable to grow crops during the winter. The short warm summers also limit the types of crops which can be grown viably.
Most melons can be grown all year round in the north provided temperatures do not exceed 38 degrees for more than a few days.
The tropical northern areas are ideal for the growing of Bananas, coconuts while dairy products are at home at the cooler, higher altitudes.
Moving south warm weather loving fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, chillis, pineapples and found with lettuce and cabbages in the winter.
Further south farmers move into Citrus along the coast and apples pears and plums in the mountains.
Further west on the plains, large scale vegetable farms are to be found with grains which give way to sheep on poorer soils and cattle in drier locations.
This is where Australians need to change their diets and offer the marginal farmers those on the dry sandy plains and slopes a better deal. The majority of the country is arid or semi arid yet we insist on eating European or Asian food which rely heavily on water and inputs which are becoming scarcer.
For meat the land can presently supply abundance of camel meat, horse meat and to the tropical north water buffalo with wild goat meat between. These are real strategies that could alleviate feral problems in the interim until kangaroo farms are fully established with both domestic and international markets as the prime export. This requires consumers to change their diets and to become more flexible in their choice of meats. The graziers need to take advantage of what the land can adequately provide and supply in a sustainable manner.
The Australian farmer has been far too conservative in the past, restricted by government regulations and the unwillingness of Agricultural scientists and advisors to make recommendations outside the proven narrow field of crops. Coffs Regional Organic Producers Organisation (CROPO) was one of the first organisations to step outside the traditional area and harbour new ideas and new crops especially those native o Australia. The problem was when they were formed, consumer awareness needed a lot of education to sway again their traditional thinking, buying habits despite their farmers showing innovation in wanting to grow new crops, new approaches to marketing and experimenting in new production techniques. The governments of the day were clearly blinkered in supporting traditional agriculture.
Macadamia nuts were first seen as a commercial venture not here in Australia but in Hawaii and it is the Chinese that now have over 80 different cultivars some of which are ready for distribution to a net work of eager farmers. Our beautiful Paper Daisies and Kangaroo Paws first saw the commercial market in Israel. The Mung Bean gained popularity in Asia, as their own bean and let’s not forget the various specie of Native Passion Fruit being tested and trial in southern China as I write.
The latest insult to our dignity comes from Argentina. Their choice of the best species to cultivate in semi arid and arid climates was of fundamental importance in selecting our native. Their decision was determined by many factors, including temperature and rainfall, soil type, water availability for irrigation and crop purposes. Soil or water salinity represents one of the major causes of crop stress. The species required was characterized by high biomass productivity, high tolerance to drought and salinity, and high efficiency in use of solar radiation and water. Based on a search of the international literature, the authors outline on agro climatic conditions, modeling to determine potential production to the designated areas in Argentina Atriplex halimus and Atriplex numularia topped the list. Using the agro climatic limits presented in this work, this model may be applied to any part of the world. When superimposed on the saline areas in Australia, the agro climatic map shows the suitability of agro ecological zoning for both species for energy purposes on land unsuitable for food production. This innovative study was based on the implementation of a geographic information system. Amazing but true another little Aussie battler may be a fuel source of the future and will be developed in one the countries that is presently leading the way in agro biomass fuels. Looking at Global warming and the future need for biomass fuels Australia has the land, has the products, has what it needs but lacks the initiative and government response.
International markets determine the cost of many products that are traded internationally like grains, beans especially soya beans, seeds and to some extent nuts. The downside of international markets is that small farmers are at the mercy of countries where labour costs are cheap and farm products are heavily subsidised by governments through fertilizer, transport or by other means. The upside is that prices for a commodity especially grains at the moment are dictated by those purchasing usually the more affluent countries at the detriment of poorer countries and poorer farmers.
International marketing can also even out the many of the seasons where shortages and gluts are experienced during the normal cyclic periods seen on the land caused by the weather. This also has a corresponding affect on the levelling out of prices. The problem here is that one or two major oligopolies will dictate the buying and selling price of basic food items in the future. I am not sure that this is a good thing for the farmer or consumer alike. This was felt some years ago in the wool industry. Let’s make no bones about China dictates the price of wool because it is the world’s major consumer with over 60% of all wool ending up in their textile mills. If China and India were to cooperate in buying strategies coupled with storage capacity then the rest of the world is at their beck and call.
While the fresh fruit and vegetable market will remain relatively untouched in the foreseeable future these products will also become increasingly affected by global marketing.
Take pears for example. Fresh is good but fresh organic is best as we know. But let’s say all the pears are being bought up for canning and 2 or 3 canneries worldwide buy most of the pears this year because the price may be at a low. The following season they can afford to sell at less even if pears are in short supply and thus again dictate the market price by selling at a premium price from last year’s stock but are gaining an unfair price this season when the prices should be high by controlling the supply artificially. These same canneries are in a position to buy ship loads from an area that has had an abundant crop, dumping regular suppliers in an area that has had problems and prices should be higher. This again artificially lowers the price of the fresh fruit in that area. Canneries have already done this on a local scale so doing it internationally is feasible and good for the share holders but bad for the farmers.
Fact: In 2000 just 4 companies slaughter and processed 81 percent of the cows, 73 percent of the sheep, 57 percent of the pigs and 50 percent of the chickens in America. Meat companies have driven down the price in America by forward contracts that in 2007 many farmers went broke.
In 1970 there were over one million pig farms in America but today there are fewer than 100,000.
Australian Banana growers are reeling from the international scene on bananas again this year while the consumer is again footing the bill.
The logistics of food handling is 2 fold, in the timing of the operation needs to be swift and at the same time has to meet stringent health requirements. With the advent of the free Trade agreement between Australia and China logistics in handling food efficiently, safely and sustainably becomes more critical.
International markets open up more avenues for supply but also open up the need for transport and holding companies to be more reliable and competitive internationally as more than one carrier will be involved in the distribution of the product. Presently most food is transported from the farm to the carrier by the farmer. From the carrier to the market and then from the market to the outlet via a second carrier before the consumer carries it on the final leg to their place of residency.
An efficient logistics network assists in ensuring the affordability of food to the consumer and the best gate price for the farmer.
Presently estimates value Australian exports of farm produce at between $40 billion to $45 billion annually with most going to south east Asia. This figure is likely to increase with the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and China which began in 2015.
It is of critical importance therefore to adopt and maintain efficient infrastructure around the international gateways and associated regulatory frameworks to ensure the future prosperity of Australian producers who export their goods around the world.
The government needs to adopt an efficient National Freight Strategy linked to the development of a National Food Plan that properly funds a functioning infrastructure to expedite the increased volumes expected at shipping ports and air ports at major centers.
Efficiencies and Regulations
The efficiency of an enterprise often directly relates to the support of governments in the sector and their regulations in connection to health requirements, marketing & direct support for struggling sectors in time of need. There is a strong move for small family farms to value add their products at the farm gate and this should be encouraged and supported especially in marginal areas. Farmers should be aware of the labeling laws that govern their product.
FDA Regulated Labeling: Food labeling requirements are adopted both federally and in state legislation. Nutritional labels are required for most prepared foods and are voluntary for raw produce and fish. The most recognizable label is the Nutrition Facts Label found on all prepared foods. This lists the suggested serving size followed by the amount per serving of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, and a list of some micronutrients found in the food. Ingredients are also included on the label, listed from the highest quantity to the lowest quantity.
There are also requirements for allergen labels on certain foods. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 indicated that 2% of adults and 5% of infants and children have food allergies. Of these 90% of the allergies are related to milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. The labels must contain a list of these major food allergens which are contained in the product, or which may have come in contact with the food during production.
“Organic” foods must carry a certification label or in the case of fresh fruit and vegetables a certified label on the outer container from one of the Organic certifying bodies. “Organic” processed foods must be at least 98% organic, even if marked 100%. That is freshly squeezed Orange juice may contain a percentage of clean rinse water and a very small percentage of non organic product during the changeover but must be less than 2%.
* A product can be labeled “100% Organic” if it contains only organic ingredients and processing aids.
* The label “Organic” is used for products containing at least 95% organic products when an organic product is not available for the remaining percentage.
* Products made up of at least 70% organic ingredients may be labeled “Made with organic ingredients”
Some factual labeling terms are not regulated but as the term states must be fact. If the chickens are free range they must be free range not caged. These terms include:
* No drugs or growth hormones used,
* Free range / cage free,
* Sustainably harvested,
* Not tested on animals.
The use of these terms on labels may be added in an effort to improve marketing for the product but must not infer that it is organic or biodynamic in origin.
One of the largest constraints to farming in Australia is drought. Australia faces a tougher climate than most countries with approximately 70% of its land area being classified as arid or semi arid. Much of the country is seen to be suitable for grazing as most of its climate is not suitable for arable farming such as wheat production.
In the 1840s South Australia began to focus on wool production and prospered in the following years. For low income developing countries, heavily investing in animal husbandry is very expensive and dangerous because expected returns can decrease significantly due to unforeseeable events. This was unfortunately for many but exemplified by the 1860’s drought that Australia experienced which severely limited food sources across the country.
To prevent future occurrences like this from reoccurring the agricultural industry developed a serious of measures and focused on improving the pastures of pastoral farmers. The system they developed included low density grazing of sheep and cattle. In addition, water was pumped from under ground sources by wind power. These improvements by way of constraints in good seasons lead better quality livestock in future droughts.
Before we look further into constraints of Farming it may be better if we first look at two types of animal husbandry – Intensive agriculture and Extensive Agriculture.
Intensive farming generally utilizes smaller areas of land and aims to have very high output, through massive inputs of capital with less labour per kilogram of output.
A kilogram of beef live weight requires about seven kilograms of high quality feed, compared to one kilogram of pork requires over three kilograms of high quality feed while chickens require 2 kilograms of high quality feed.
This also has the assumption that feed quality is implicit in such generalizations. For example, production of a kilogram of beef cattle live weight may require an additional between 4 and 5 kilograms of feed high in protein and metabolizable energy content for normal movement and can rise to more than 20 kilograms of feed in lower quality feeds.
The following chart shows the average amount of water used to produce 1 kilogram of the product. Note cows also consume green grass and other high water volume grasses to gain additional water for the production of milk. The actual amount used maybe similar to that of cheese. Sources include Hoekstra& Hung 2003, Chapagain & Hoekstra 2003, Zimmer& Renault 2003 and Oki etal 2003.
The use of machine technology endeavours to have the farms run like conveyer belts. They are highly efficient and very cost effective. Controlled environments, highly digestible meat producing foods, hormones for quick growth, high use of antibiotics to minimize and prevent diseases breaking out with no or little conscience for the animals.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.18>>
The ducks on the left are awaiting their deaths. Legs tied behind their backs often dislocated so they cannot move. On the right the ducks have their abdomens slit and intestines removed while still alive. It took 7 to 13 minutes for the ducks to die. This slaughter house has since been closed down. He Chuan China.
Producers rely on little or no publicity including photography and strangers are normally prohibited from entry as the stock is concentrated in the smallest possible areas without any freedom, often without the ability to turn around or walk, preen or clean themselves, cramped conditions save winter heating bills while the animals suffer heat stress during hot periods & unnatural steel and concrete bedding often results in skin lesions and bed sores.
As for the Animals:
* Close confinement systems in cages or crates or a lifetime confined to indoor sheds,
* Discomfort and injuries caused by inappropriate on concrete or steel bar flooring and housing,
* Restriction or prevention of normal exercise and most of life’s natural foraging or exploratory behaviour,
* Restriction and prevention of natural maternal nesting and siring behaviour,
* Lack of daylight (Vitamin D), circulating fresh air resulting in poor air quality in animal sheds,
* Social stress and injuries caused by overcrowding often left unattended especially close to slaughter time
* Health problems caused by extreme selective breeding and management for fast growth and high productivity
- Reduced longevity of breeding animals, dairy cows, breeding sows and breeding chickens and roosters,
- Rapid spread of infections induced by overcrowding results in the overuse of antibiotics,
- Stress in intensive conditions results in the over use of antibiotics,
- Debeaking; beak trimming or shortening, in the poultry, egg industry to avoid pecking in overcrowded quarters,
- Forced and over feeding by inserting tubes into the throats of ducks and geese in the production of foie gras (foie gras is a food product made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened usually by force feeding),
- Tied and Killed without pain relief, often left to die in pain from horrendous inflicted methods.
And as for the Environment:
- Deforestation for animal feed production (See the notes above on water and feed requirements of animals compared to fruit and vegetables),
- Unsustainable pressure on land for production of high-protein, high energy animal feed when there alternative vegetable crops,
- Pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer manufacture and use for feed production is 4 to 20 times greater for meat than for the equivalent vegetable matter,
- Unsustainable use of water for feed crops, including groundwater extraction is 4 to 20 times greater than an equivalent amount of vegetable matter,
- Pollution of soil, water and air by nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer used for feed crops and from manures,
- Land degradation from the reduced fertility, soil compaction, increased salinity and desertification where feed crops replace forests,
- Loss of biodiversity due to eutrophication, acidification, pesticides and herbicides,
- Worldwide reduction of genetic diversity of livestock resulting from the loss of traditional breeds,
- Species extinctions due to livestock related habitat destruction to support feed crops.
Extensive farming is the direct opposite of intensive farming. The farms are large in comparison to the money injected into them and are usually more labour intensive for each unit produced. The cattle stations of central Australia are a good example of extensive agriculture, where a few farm workers are responsible for thousands of acres of farmland, tagging, mustering and the logistics of the animals.
Another example of extensive farming can be seen in the massive cattle ranches of Brazil. These involve clearing vast areas of rainforests. The trees are often burnt rather than chopped down and sold, to make way for the cattle ranch. The cattle quickly eat the remaining vegetation and begin to cause massive problems of soil erosion.
Environmental degradation is another concern for livestock farmers. Environmental degradation occurs when the world’s major resources are exhausted which causes undesirable effects on the environment. One major aspect of this degradation is the depletion of fresh water. Fresh water is needed to feed the livestock and to keep the animals in good health. Also, if fresh water were no longer available the moisture levels of soil would be greatly affected. This in turn would cause pastoral farmers to suffer considerably since the quality and existence of their pastures is based on having soil moisture.
Constraints in agriculture are probably best evaluated by comparing the vastly different operations that exist in our neighbours property and good friend Zhang Wen Guan in northern Yunan Province to the two agricultural ventures in Australia. Looking at a cattle station in far north western, Western Australia and an orchard on the east coast of New South Wales clearly displays the differences and how these differences highlight the different constraints within each venture.
The properties in Australia are owned outright where as the farm in China has a 40 year lease over it. This makes the leased property far more attractive, accessible and financially. Here it means that capital can be immediately invested into the property for a return instead of paying bank interest plus the investment.
Physically the Chinese farm is typical covering several plots around the village with a total area of 2 hectares on slopes with rich red soil. The properties are totally exposed without any natural bushland apart from a few isolated trees which comprise of Sichuan pepper and mountain strawberry trees which are native to the area.
The Australian cattle property is generally flat with a reddish sandy loam and covers around 450 square kilometres. The orchard comprises of 1,200 mandarins with 300 lemon trees and 100 mixed trees including loquats, Sichuan Pepper and mixed Native fruit trees on 5 hectares with 85 hectares of natural forests and rainforests.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.22>>
The Geographic Properties of the Different Ventures
Activities Associated with Running the Different Ventures
The Chinese Experience
The small holding in southern China, Yunan at 清水潭 (Qing Shui Tan) was influenced by surrounding farms and generational thinking. It recycled all the properties waste including trash and weeds from the farm to feed the usually 2 family pigs, guinea pigs and chickens which are all eaten for their meat. Trash from corn was used for bedding straw and fuel for the wood stove. The main crops were vegetables, corn, hemp for fibre and tobacco.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.23>>
The cool subtropical weather was conducive to most small crops and the rainfall was consistent in most seasons and evenly spread throughout the year giving reliability.
The low U.V. levels made it comfortable for workers on the farms but meant crops were generally slower to mature but this meant a better quality organic product with better flavour prevailed in the long term.
The rocky nature of the area with rocky outcrops made the fields difficult to work with machinery but gave a ready supply of calcium and a rich source of minerals normally associated with old coral reefs. The rocks were extracted and powderized manually using a sledge hammer followed by ball pein hammers.
Up until the time they started growing herbs water was carried from the dam to the fields by buckets on a biandan or shoulder pole. Now a small pump with irrigation pipes is employed to pump water to the fields involved.
Contour ploughing of the field is carried out with a single wooden disc plough behind a water Buffalo. Here there is a saying, “If the tractor breaks down you kill it and eat it and bring on the next generation of tractors.”
The farms are intensively farmed, as soon as one crop is harvested the soil is being ploughed, composted and lightly fertilized with the crushed rock prior to the next crop being sown.
Because of the low incomes and small areas farmed technology is limited to the disc plough and basic hand tools. Another area of technology that is often overlooked is the planting methodology based on probably hundreds of years of cultivation, the timing of sowing of crops is determined by the phase of the moon rather than a calendar. This method has been used by the Sani and Yizu for thousands of years and is tabulated into rock carvings in the area.
The yields are high per hectare due to the double planting of crops like widely spaced corn with snake beans between and melons being sown as the last of the corn are at anthesis. This gives a longer than normal growing season and allows for two winter vegetable crops in the winter.
As the corn is harvested the stems are cut off near the ground and stored with the corn husks and deseeded cobs in the small mud brick homes for use as bedding material and food for the sow and piglets.
All the work is carried out by family members or with some of the larger holdings the use of local labour from the nearby city of Shi Lin.
Despite being isolated in the hills east of Kunming all modern facilities like telephone service, electricity and television are available in town with the exception of town water which is still supplied by the local communal dam which is continually fed from an underground stream that surfaces in the centre the town on the Ashima fountain. A small country goat track links with the highway and the interstate Railway stops on the northern side of the old Shi Lin Township. There is no shops in the village. There is a small family hand weaved textile plant in the village which manufactures hemp cloth.
Excess produce is transported to Kunming or other larger towns for distribution. Many people from the region migrate to the cities in hope of a better life style and more prosperous incomes. No land is left fallow as family members will utilize the land for extra income or if the land is left fallow the government will step in and reallocate unused land.
Urban encroachment is not a problem in the district as the local cities like Shi Lin are encouraged to build higher rather than spread out over valuable farm land. A big advantage of this is to be found in the cities drainage system as it is ready in place as the net surface area remains fairly constant.
The industrialized regions; like most Chinese in cities, are of very poor standard and this area is no exception. The main parks are to be found in the old Shi Lin town some 8 or 10 kilometres to the east which is heavily reliant on tourism. Here the gardens are built exclusively for tourist and photographers rather than for the local community.
Because of tourism, the rural lifestyle and the lack of heavy industry the district has been spared the pollution of so many other areas in China. The largest single operation is a pencil factory which has its own contained, tailing dams which appear to be run more on a western style factory with all the modern though old technological environmental requisites in place.
My experiences working with the Yizi led me to say I believe these people had “Utopia” in a beautiful country scene, people working for each other laid back life style, no televisions few mod cons. Like so many people today want more of the modern technologies that life has without the realization that stress, bills and fracturing of family values are also the prices paid for those advances.
I remember the time when the village wanted to expand the dam in the centre of the village. While in the west we would need council approval, calling of tenders, letting the tender out, gathering of the equipment, draining the dam waiting for it to dry, removing the sludge, dumping the sludge, excavating, dump trucks organized to dump the rock, finalizing the job, placing the accounts, endless inspections, finally the payment and six months later the job maybe completed.
Here council approval was gained then the locals all chipped in with sledge hammers and chisels. First the dam was drained then eager hands all collected the sludge mixing it with manures and spreading it over their farms by water buffalo buckets and shovels. Then the hard work of breaking up the rock and removing it for fertilizer and road base. 200 eager hands removing over 200 cubic meters a day for 30 days 6000 cubic meters of rock in total. At the end of the 30 days the government through the local police officer distributed the cash to all the farmers keeping the money totally local, job completed on time with no complaints coupled with healthier bodies with a sense of achievement. The police officer in town also doubled as the government accountant, post office, welfare officer and local outdoor picture theatre operator one day a week.
My time spent here was truly satisfying and I owe my good friend John Wen Guan, his family and fellow villagers a huge thank you for showing me a real life experience, warmth and friendship that will never be replaced or forgotten.
The central Australian Experience
We wanted to include a beef or sheep station operation however all the properties approached didn’t wish to be included.
The Coastal Strip Experience
The medium holding in northern New South Wales at Nana Glen took into account many different prospects before the final decision was made to commit to organic growing of Citrus.
We recycled all the properties waste including trash and weeds from the farm along with nature strip slashings to feed the ducks that were permitted to scrounge through the compost piles. All road kills we came across which included Kangaroos, echidnas, cats and dogs were included in the piles of mulch. Grass cuttings were collected along the side of the road when the Council slashed. This comprised of 80% of the high quality mulch used in the early days, along with 250 cubic meters of saw dust from the local hardwood mill which was mixed with the road kills and grass clippings along with returned out of date yoghurt from the local factory and a couple of tonnes of Hoods 100% Organic Blood & Bone and fine lime.
The land here was in a great position to convert to organic growing as the farming history only indicated dairy cows back in the mid 40’s. We later found out that the section where the eastern trees were to be planted had been used for a turf farm. Fortunately the turf was not sprayed. It was a case of get in rip out and move on as soon as the top soil had been completely removed. We took into account that farm conversion to organic growing was expensive but worthwhile and needed 2 years for full A grade status.
The cool subtropical weather was conducive to most small crops, citrus and the rainfall was usually consistently good from late spring through to late autumn. While the long cool winters often had sub zero temperatures at night the days were warm and clear. This was conducive to most Citrus trees bearing good sweet fruit once they were established.
One constraint was the possibility of bark split especially around the grafts in the first and second season due to a few severe frosts. Another constraint meant the shelving of many subtropical native fruit trees we wanted to invest in as the winter weather did not yield enough prolonged cold frosts to grow good stone fruit or temperate zone fruits.
The low to medium U.V. levels made it comfortable for workers on the farms but meant crops were generally slower to mature than northern orchards.
The top soil was generally only a few centimetres thick due to the previous use as a turf farm. This is where the need for large quantities of mulch was needed to improve the podsolic clay soil structure, increase carbon content and micro and macro organism activity.
Another constraint soon became apparent as trees in one part of the orchard were displaying severe salt burns during a prolonged cold dry spell in the first and second years coupled with drought. Both tissue and soil analysis’s proved that we had a soil born problem to deal with. Boron was in toxic levels in several locations. The DPI offered no solution to the problem other than to abandon the area. The growing of beetroot between the young trees was a significant turning point for us, as it enabled us to have a short term cash crop with a phytoremediator for the removal of the excess Boron. This proved to be a blessing in disguise.
The orchard comprised of shallow topsoil over clay. The clay was derived from local metashales with poor pale brown volcanic intrusions from a local plug on the property.
The farm is extensively farmed because following the planting of the trees most areas had a poor grass cover. Rye, oats, the Parramatta grass, scotch thistle and fireweed with clover were all allowed to grow and flourish in the initial years. 400 ducks were introduced to roam over most of the area. The ducks proved very successful keeping the grass and weeds to a manageable level and completely eradication of fruit fly, snails and slugs which were a real problem on other orchards in the district. About 0.8 of a hectare of lemons was selected to grow vegetable and flower seeds as a cash crop until the trees matured and showed a profit.
Because of the low income and small area that was moderately intensive, farm technology was limited to hiring a local contractor to plough and rip the initial orchard and vegetable patch. As the income gained some momentum a small tractor with a disc plough, a deep ripper and slasher were incorporated into the scheme.
The site for the dam was considered a high priority for the orchard with a view of having 4 years of water in backup. This was a major expense and one that proved not only beneficial to us but a safe refuge in a later drought for hundreds of water fowl that joined the half a dozen permanent water fowl who called the dam home. The 6 meter deep dam covered 2 hectares, had a relative flat base with a seasonal creek feeding into it. The annual rainfall in the district is 1150mm ranging from 800mm in drought years to 2150 in really wet seasons.
The yields were moderately extensive per hectare due to the vegetable and flower seeds being grown and the 26 to 30 dozen duck eggs which were produced on a daily basis. As the trees matured the orchard was still a moderately extensive affair.
All the work was carried out by myself. During the picking season some casual labour was utilized from the nearby village of Nana Glen which had a consistent 10% or higher unemployment rate.
Despite being out of town in the hills west of Coffs Harbour all the modern facilities like telephone service, electricity and television are available with the exception of town water which is supplied 2 by 20,000 litre tanks. A bitumen road links with the highway and Coffs Harbour where 2 competing transport firms commuted daily to the Brisbane and Sydney markets.
Second grade produce was sold at the front gate with the money being donated to children’s orphanages in Asia.
We were registered organic through herb Growers of Australia as they were convenient and showed the more compassionate responses to farmers problems on a local basis where as the other major organisations seemed to be more big farm orientated at the time as HGA is no longer a separate organization following their amalgamation, I hope that they have responded more grower friendly towards the backbone of the industry and support the smaller growers as keenly as they had done in the past with the larger enterprises.
Apart from the dam construction and revegetation of the wetland area our efforts concentrated on the biological control of noxious weeds and Lantana camira which was an extensive problem on the first gully and at the back of the block. The noxious weeds succumbed to a programme of better soil fertility and shade cover through natural revegetation of local species. The Lantana required a slower programme of slowly and methodically grubbing and allowing the native cover of grasses on the slopes and dry rainforest species to again regain a strong foothold on in the valleys. The local dry rainforest plants that were planted 12 years earlier were mainly growing well while the first plantings planted 25 years ago were well established flowering and flourishing.
The best part about the redeveloping forest cover was the site of numerous epiphytic orchids which began to recolonize the more established trees. Since the property has been sold no enhancement has taken place with many rare and endangered species at the front being removed and others being subject to degradation from feral animals and the absent mindlessness of neighbours not cooperating and the owners taking a less than passing interest in conservation of the beauty and rarity of what they had.
The district has primary schools close by for young children and secondary schools were a mere 40 minutes away by school bus.
Urban encroachment is not a problem in the district as the local Coffs harbour City Council has a ban on development outside the designated town centre. There would be a small increase from roof run off during heavy rain if the village was fully developed and a small increase in septic water polluting the local river. The septic systems are closely monitored for excess drainage and surface run off. Local businesses comprise of a corner shop garage and a arts and crafts shop.
Because of tourism, the rural lifestyle and the lack of heavy industry, the district has been spared us from any major pollution problems.
Production innovation with Research and Development
See chapter 19 section Will biotechnology meet the
expectations of farmers and their communities.
Types of Farming Operations:
Australia is fortunate that it has diverse soil types along with good weather conditions and plains to gently rising slopes making it possible to grow most crops all year round in most areas. The greatest constraint to agricultural is the lack of labour and the cost to employ that labour when it is available. Working conditions in Australia are generally better than most places in the world.
Technology, quality and a clean environment with strong organic connections is making the home industry one of the best in the world covering every crop grown.
In the future more native crops like the Macadamia Nut and Mung Bean, crocodile and kangaroo will find their way onto the tables of ordinary Australians as better more reliable producing plant types are found.
I personally believe the native plants with the greatest potential for agriculture will be developed for the semi arid areas of the continent not the rainforests as so many believe.
The types of crops grown in Australia are directly attributed to whether they are Plantations, Orchards, Small Area Family Farms growing Vegetables Flowers or Aquaculture enterprises.
Plantation production is almost entirely left to Sugar Cane and Bananas with Macadamia nuts occupying a smaller area ahead of coffee and tea which are in their infancy.
<<Horticultural Production Photo 25.24>>
I have detailed this tree’s future values as an oil crop and Carbon sink in detail under plant descriptions. This is one of the industries that the Abbot government left in tact for carbon sequestering which makes it a valuable two edge sword for plantation owners.
The value of sugar cane to the Australian economy, rural provincial cities and employment cannot be underestimated. Australian sugar cane farmers are the third largest supplier of raw sugar in the world and sugar is the seventh largest agricultural exporter in Australia. 80% of Australia’s raw sugar is exported adding between $1.7 to $2 billion value of production every year.
This equates to Australia producing between 30 and 35 million tonnes of cane every year. This cane when refined makes between 4 and 4.5 million tonnes of raw sugar. There are over 6000 cane plantations supplying 24 sugar mills and 6 bulk storage ports along the east coast of Queensland and northern New South Wales.
While the average size of a cane farm is 100 hectares, some are in excess of 1000 hectares. While there are still a large number of smaller farms the average farm size is increasing each year, as the number of growers, contracts the area farmed by the individual cane farms expands as is the total area. This consolidation is made possible by advances in technology and farm methodology.
The 24 sugar mills crush an average 10,000 tonnes of cane daily and employ around 150 people during the crushing season. Cane is transported to the mills by cane railway and road. Millers, growers and harvesters determine harvesting and transport schedules that ensure cane is crushed as fresh as possible. Average cut to crush time is less than 12 hours. Most sugar mills have been established for more than 100 years. (Figures from CSIRO & the Cane Growers Association)
The 18% of the raw sugar produced in Australia for domestic consumption is refined locally and processed into white sugar, liquid sugar products and other speciality products such as golden syrup, treacle, coffee sugar, cubed sugar and rum.
Queensland produces about 95% of Australia’s raw sugar production while New South Wales produces the remaining 5%. It is the NSW sugar production that is sold on the domestic market as white sugar.
Sugar Cane was once characterized by brilliant cane fires now sees over 80% of growers cut the cane green just prior to full maturation and spread the trash from the cuttings over the harvested paddock. The trash acts as a protective layer over the soil, preventing soil erosion from wind and rain, assists in weed control, improves soil structure and conserves soil moisture. It also reduces unnecessary air pollution, the need for soil cultivation and contributes to a reduction in nitrogen requirements and organic carbon inputs. Harvesting green reduces the need for cane firing.
These methods have virtually eliminated soil erosion once associated with the heavy rains on land which is often subject to seasonal inundation.
There has been a big swing towards conservation tillage systems like no and minimum till which cuts down the number of times a farmer disturbs the soil. This in itself increases the number of soil micro and macro organisms which in turn help increase soil fertility and cut down on the use of fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides. Less frequent tillage also reduces the amount of energy inputs farmers on machinery and thus maintenance, reducing costs and saving resources.
Water, with pumping costs and asset purchases account for one third of all costs for around 60% of Australia’s cane growers who rely on costly irrigation. Water is an increasingly precious commodity and saving water is good business for cane growers. Irrigation water is monitored closely on all farms, with soil moisture readings an essential component of irrigation timing. This is an area that may well constrain many farmers with global warming and higher sea levels as they may succumb to Salt Water Intrusion.
The banana industry has grown substantially over the years with north Queensland supplying the bulk of bananas on the east coast and Carnarvon supplying the bulk of bananas on the west coast. The total farm area producing bananas in north Queensland is over 12,000 hectares or about 90% of the Australian area. The majority of plantations are in the high rainfall regions between Cardwell in the south and Babinda in the north.
From the time of planting a sucker out it usually takes 12 months to produce the first bunch of bananas in the tropics and a little longer in the sub tropical areas like around Coffs Harbour. The subsequent bunches are produced in 8 to 10 months thereafter.
Matured bananas take between 12 and 15 weeks to develop from flowering. An average bunch has 150 to 200 bananas and weighs between 35 and 50 kilograms. Once the bunch is harvested, the parent or mother plant is cut down and becomes organic matter in the plantation. (Figures from CSIRO & Banana Growers Industry Association)
Australian bananas are grown in both tropical and subtropical regions. This ensures the industry has good diversity in terms of:
* The geographical location of banana plantations are separated in order to control disease, Panama Disease is a real threat,
* Farming practices,
* The size and varieties of bananas grown and their flavour. Southern bananas are smaller with better flavor,
* Bananas are soft stemmed palms that are easily broken in wild or cyclonic weather so geographical separation ensures a better continuity of supply.
Bananas are covered in plastic bags to protect them from wind damage and to keep flying foxes and other insect pests at bay.
The tropical banana growing regions in Australia are located in north Queensland, the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Western Australia. There are also subtropical growing regions in the south east of Queensland, central coastal Western Australia and northern New South Wales.
The first banana plantations were started by the Chinese working on the goldfields around Tully. The trade in north Queensland bananas stopped during World War I when there were restrictions on local shipping and outbreaks of plant disease. The banana industry was re established in the area at the end of World War II in 1945. Bananas were packed in 40kg wooden boxes and transported to market by rail up until the 1960s when road transport was introduced. Today bananas are packed in recycled cardboard cartons and transported by both road and rail in refrigerated containers.
The Northern Territory is Australia’s northern most banana production area. However, the soil-borne fungal disease Panama Virus has all but obliterated the industry. The disease was identified in the Northern Territory in the 1990s, and is the only known Australian location.
Since its outbreak the industry has been in sharp decline compared to all other areas where the industry is having a positive and rapid growth. From the more than 7,000 tonnes produced in 2000 to 2,000 tonnes in 2007 there is only one commercial banana plantation left in 2012. It is hoped the development of Panama tolerant and resistant banana strains will assist in re establishing the Northern Territory’s banana industry.
The major district in Western Australia where bananas are grown is in and around Carnarvon where around 50% of the bananas are grown in that state. There are over 400 plantations in the Carnarvon district growing over $46 million worth of bananas annually for the Perth market. The other major area of growth is in the far north of Western Australia, near Kununurra on the Ord River and close to the Northern Territory border is rapidly becoming a new centre of growth for the industry.
Some of the constraints to growing bananas are the distance from the major markets as most the fruit needs to be transported to places like Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney in the south while wind can damage fruit making them unsaleable and cyclones in the north can totally decimate plantations periodically.
Macadamia nuts account for around 2% of the world nut production. After a late start Australia now accounts for 45% of the world production and this will increase dramatically as new plantations in Northern New South Wales and near Maryborough come into full production. Australia is the world’s largest producer of Macadamias and has more than 13 million trees in the ground. Australia’s macadamia industry is worth nearly $100 million at the farm gate. About 60 to 70 per cent of Australian macadamias are exported every year. (Figures from CSIRO)
The 2011 crop is anticipated to be 35,000 tonnes not in the shell which equates to around 10,000 tonnes of kernel. (Australian Macadamia Society – April 2011)
A typical macadamia tree in an orchard may take seven years to begin producing and will not attain full production until it is 10 to 12 years old.
Generally, a single tree can produce approximately 30 kilograms of nuts each year. Once harvested, the nuts must be husked within 24 hours.
A tough nut to crack as it takes 60 kilogram pressure per square centimetre to break the shell of a macadamia making the nut the hardest of all nut shells.
Of the 9 species of Macadamia sp. worldwide, 7 of the species are native to Australia but only 2 are edible without treatment. They are Macadamia tetraphylla and Macadamia integrifolia. Both species originate from south Queensland and northern New South Wales. Macadamia integrifolia is more common in the northern area of the range while Macadamia tetraphylla is more common to the southern area. The flowers of Macadamia integrifolia are white and the nut is more rounded and smooth while the flowers of Macadamia tetraphylla are pale pink and the surface of the nut more rugose.
It is natural for Macadamia sp. to flower, form nuts and bear nutlets and mature nuts simultaneously. Mature nuts are collected from the ground between February and September each year.
Macadamia nuts are relatively high in monounsaturated fats which reduces overall cholesterol levels and improves the critical HDL/LDL cholesterol balance. The results of the study also confirm that macadamia nuts have nutritional and dietary benefits equal to or better than olive oil and other tree nuts.
Macadamias prefer better quality red volcanic loams to light clays with 1800mm to 2200mm of rainfall annually along with a dry flowering period which are major constraints on growing commercially good organic nuts. The flowers are subject to fungal attack in wet weather while the green immature fruits are subject to weevil attack every few years is another constraint which restrict good annual harvests.
Growers should note future markets and competition world wide.
Coffee and the attraction of a domestic market is now worth $300 million at the farm gate value. Without diseases coffee is almost entirely grown organically in Australia. Annual production now is in excess of 200 tonnes in Queensland and 30 tonnes in New South Wales and is growing rapidly. Amazingly the Australian coffee production is almost entirely sold overseas while the country imports around 49,000 tonnes of coffee annually an extraordinary figure considering our population.
Coffee is grown within the cool tropics and warm subtropics where the temperatures remain constant between 15 and 25 degrees maximums and between 5 and 15 degrees minimum. The perfect altitude is some 600 to 1200 meters ASL though good results are being had in Australia at much lower levels to 100 meters ASL. High quality Arabica beans are grown at the higher altitudes while Robusta can be grown at far lower altitudes.
Plants usually start yielding at 3 to 4 years and mature at 5 years with regular yields for Arabica being 400gms to 1500gms for Arabica and 600gms to 2gms for Robusta. 2.5kg of berries will yield 500gms of dried processed beans.
Beans are carefully processed as they are quite delicate and packed in 60Kg bags for shipment around the world.
The biggest single constraint to the coffee industry is the small number of plantations coupled with severs restrictions on the clearing or opening up of suitable new land for new plantations. Most the suitable land for coffee growing is tied up in high quality rainforests and National Parks.
In 2000, Australia consumed 14,000 tonnes of tea yet tea production in Australia remains very small and is primarily in northern New South Wales and Queensland with most of that states production being in the far north, northwest of Cairns. Most tea produced in Australia is black tea, although there are small quantities of green tea produced in the Alpine Valleys of regional Victoria. Tea production is unlikely to expand due to the constraints on development in rainforests on better quality soils.
Billy tea is the drink prepared by the ill fated swagman in the popular Australian folk song Waltzing Matilda. Boiling water for tea over a camp fire and adding a gum leaf for flavouring remains an iconic traditional Australian method for preparing tea, which was a staple drink of the Australian colonial period.
Black and green teas contain no essential nutrients in significant content, with the exception of the dietary mineral, manganese at 0.5mg per cup or 26% of the Daily Value.
Australia can produce every known fruit if it so desires. The traditional fruits of Apples, Pears, Grapes, Bananas, Lemons, Oranges and Pineapples are still very popular however other fruits are slowly emerging as both farmers and consumers become aware of the fruits which have mainly been as a result of multiculturalism. These include Mangoes, Avocadoes, Durian, Custard Apples, Starr Fruit, Limes, Paw Paws, Pomegranate, Jackfruits, Mangosteens, Lichees, Rambuttans, Coconuts, dates, Passionfruit and many Native Fruits which are starting to be noticed.
Native Fruits including several specie of Syzygium sp. which all have the potential for value adding or to e sold to niche restaurant markets.
Of the native specie of Solanum sp. which have found potential in Australia all are semi arid plants and require little or no water.
Carpobrotus species unfortunately have proven to be a real problem in cultivation; securing good fruiting material while successful techniques need to be explored further before it can be recommended as a commercial crop. The fruit has a short shelf life and as a fresh fruit most people will only eat the sweet inner flesh discarding the outer flesh which is rather salty in taste.
Citrus australisica is now starting to gain a foothold in the market place and Asia especially China, Japan and Korea all offer great opportunities in the future.
Leptomeria acida or Native Currant is a sleeping giant as are the
Morinda citrifolia has everything going for it. The large 100mm fruits are juicy, sweet, flavoursome and are very high in vitamins and minerals, have a reasonablly long shelf life are easy to grow, resistant to fruit fly and animal attack prior to and after ripening and require average soils and maintenance.
So what’s the catch you ask? Morinda citrifolia is known as Vomit fruit which means very few people know how to get past the smell of fresh vomit to enjoy the flavour. Gagging is often the result of inexperienced connoisseurs. Secondly few green grocers want a store that smell as though someone has just left their voice under the counter. Further; to top it off, every time I have eaten the fruit my friends avoid me like the plague. Apparently I smell like the fruit for several hours similar to garlic lingering in the mouth and nobody not even the wife can stomach kissing me goodnight. And for the wife well the couch is where I usually end up. Mixing it, into a fruit salad will not make it a party favourite.
Apart from some of the traditional fruits like oranges and mandarins most fruits are grown on small farms and orchards. Smaller operations offer far better quality, uniformity in size and varieties which can extend the growing and harvesting season which is not conducive to large operations.
The major constraints to most fruit production on large scales are as follows. These same constraints offer the smaller orchardist opportunities which are not available to the large growers.
* The expense of acquiring large suitable land can be quite exorbitant where facilities and logistics operate,
* The time frame in bringing orchards into full production which can take 8 to 20 years makes them riskier projects and less likely to attract financiers,
* The risk of finding suitable labour during harvesting to pick and pack increases with isolation and increases competition for labour when large numbers of orchards are in close proximity,
* The inability to value add seconds at the farm gate renders fruit useless especially in times of gluts,
* The energy costs involved in large operations to install cooling and holding facilities,
* Logistics in getting fruit to markets in unestablished areas,
* Post Harvest Losses range 5% to 30% depending upon the type
of fruit while pre harvest losses can also be high where contract labour often rejects smaller fruit or includes all fruits which require further sorting
* Probably the most serious constraint at the moment to developing sustainable markets with sustainable policies is the future climate changes and government policy. For any venture that wants to invest heavily in fruit production the environment needs to be good. Orchardists need greater security in knowledge of the facts and assistance to project Global Warming and its impact on their production. They need greater security from governments to protect markets with an insistence of quarantine procedures that will protect them and their investments. All these problems can be mitigated but orchardists need support well into the future without political jargon and pretence policies which can be overturned at the whim of the next parliament which may have different agendas.
Australian Imports and exports
Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland are well positioned to meet the market challenges which exist and will continue to rise over the next decade or two. The Asian market will see a large increase in meat products before it again reduces its meat consumption for high quality fruit. Tropical fruits are growing in consumption readily according to local supermarket managers in China. I have been informed that they believe meat consumption will reach a peak over the next decade or two at the most and are planning accordingly. The affluent middle class are looking increasingly at sweeter type tropical fruits which presently are still well outside the average Chinese house hold for price.
When we see exotic fruits including Avocadoes, Shepi selling for 40 to 60 renmimbi ($8:00 to $11:00) and red dates selling for 55 to 65 renmimbi ($10:50 to $12:50) a kilogram then these fruits would be very sustainable and economical for orchardists to commence growing here. Syzygium aqueum, which is also native to the Philippines sells in China for around 18 to 25 renmimbi ($3:50 to $4:80) per fruit we should be concentrating more on local species as well as those proven exotics in mixed orchards.
Fruit is now worth $900m and is up from $523m since the beginning of the century due to China, Thailand and Japan.
The free trade agreement with China which will take effect from early 2015 should see exports there rise sharply in the following 12 months with a steady increase over the following decade or two. Though China is considered to be of major importance, China is presently rated our 6th largest exporter and is expected to grow disproportionally along with Korea and Indonesia over the next decade which Indonesia and China rivalling for 1st place.
Why are Australian fruit exports to China so low at the moment?
Australian apples are in high demand in the high end fruit market, but of China’s 2012 fruit imports, apples made up 2% of total volume. One of the main problems facing fruit exporters are the stringent requirements the Chinese government has put in place on imported fresh fruits. At the moment, Australia can only legally export citrus, mango, and cherries which Chinese growers are eager to export more of to Australia in our off season. Apples and table grapes, must have a permit with other spring and summer fruits. Even with permits in place, the long transits to Chinese ports require costly cold storage in transport.
The biggest constraint to selling to the Chinese market is Fruit fly which China wants to stay free of so quarantine is a major player in the market. The irradiation of fresh fruit is not an alternative as it is first costly and would harm the fresh green appeal of Australian products. Japan has suffered enormously from this in the past and since the Nuclear debacle has virtually lost all sea food markets and herb markets in China and elsewhere in Asia.
China is a major fruit producer itself and it is estimated that China produces 30% of the world’s fruit, providing most of the fruit demand domestically including Hong Kong and Macao. In 2012, China produced 220 million tonnes of fresh fruit. Despite exporting only 3 million tonnes of this harvest, it is ranked the 7th largest exporter worldwide. Its primary markets are neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Russia, the Philippines and South Korea. As a major exporter, China’s produce overwhelms Australia’s in volume. Both Australian and Chinese fruit quality is considered very good. The Chinese domestic demand at the moment is not high enough to justify the cost required to overcome obstacles in establishing a significant presence in China’s fruit market. This is expected to rise though as the population increases and family expenditures increase.
Chilean and Peruvian fruits like blue berries, avocados and off season grapes have seen an increase due to their relative cheapness and more favourable government relations.
Chinese supermarket analysts in the fruit industry have suggested to me that the demand is growing especially as the Chinese government is campaigning for a healthier national diet away from meat and fats. Interest in alternative fruits is currently stagnant and isn’t growing domestically in any significant way. This can be best illustrated in exotic fruits like avocados and is blamed partially on the exorbitant prices being asked in our supermarkets one proprietor told me. This could be an opportunity for the Australian market to capitalize on.
Bananas, Dragon Fruit and Durian
are on the Political War Front
China’s northern ports imported significant amounts of bananas and in 2012, Chinese imported bananas accounted for 22% of its markets, 16% of were dragon fruits and 14% were durian. These fruits primarily are imported from the Philippines and Vietnam. Both have since seen a significant drop in imports in the face of recent diplomatic tensions and have come at a time when the Australia China free trade agreement which was commenced and negotiated by the Julia Gillard government and continued under the Abbott government is to commence in early 2015.
China is capitalizing on its new found friendship with Russia. With the aid of the American led embargoes on Russia has opened new doors for China to export fruit in the northern hemisphere seasons and thus opens a door of opportunity for Australian growers.
Australia could capitalize on the strained relations between the Philippines to encourage China to import more of our bananas a major Australian product and the new evolving Dragon Fruit market. Relations between Australia and China are now also under strain recently, due to public comments from the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and government officials, making this a far more difficult line to pursue.
The establishment of a Vietnamese owned dragon fruit “mega farm” in the Northern Territory offers a bright future for the Australian product which is further enhanced with a corresponding interest from Chinese importers.
Australia; like fruit, can produce every known vegetable it desires. For all intended purposes as so many agriculturalists, scientists and markets refer to Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Chillies, Capsicum, Peas, Beans, Cucumbers, Pumpkins, beans, peas and Melons then so will I. In fact these crops are all fruits by definition.
The traditional vegetables of beans, peas, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, beetroot and carrots are still very popular however other vegetables are slowly emerging as both farmers and consumers become aware of the fruits which have mainly been as a result of multiculturalism.
These include all the Asian and South American vegetables, Amaranthus sp., several mountain Yams and many Native vegetables which have gained very little attention.
Native vegetables include Native Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides and the Native Carrot, Daucus glochidiatus.
One extraordinary Native that has enormous potential in Australia is Native Liquorice, Glycyrrhiza acanthocarpa. It is a semi arid plant that responds exceptionally well with a little extra water and soil improvement.
Another serious crop to consider where water is not a problem are the Lemnoideae. The water quantity and quality needs to be quite high with nutrient levels strictly controlled for optimum growth and quality. Lemna specie, Spirodela polyrhiza (Spirulina), Landoltia punctata and Wolffia angusta have all been proven and at present values can produce up to $300,000 a hectare under ideal conditions. Value adding is needed on site to ensure high quality and uniformity of quality for human consumption.
Lemna species produces 3 times the protein per square meter than soy beans are high in anti oxidants, vitamins B-1(thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3(nicotinamide), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-9 (folic acid), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin E., It is also a source of Calcium, Magnesium, potassium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc. Spirulina contains many pigments which may be beneficial and bioavailable”.
Excess supply and normal supply is used extensively in Asia to feed pigs, poultry and fish and is considered to be a very high quality food. (See Lemna sp. for a comprehensive report.)
Constraints would be based on the guaranteed quality of the water used.
In general the flora industry has been largely ignored by governments and the agricultural departments within Australia despite the huge potential for exports; in the export market especially local indigenous flora which has so much potential. A prime example is the kangaroo Paw and the Geraldton Wax which were both developed in Israel for the European market – Lost opportunities. The industry for too long has held onto the apron strings of European varieties or Asian flowers (Tulips and Chrysanthemums) which are far more suited to cooler moist climates and closer to export markets while a growing trend at home is now for natives.
If you enjoy your garden, flowers and want to turn your gardening hobby into extra income, think about growing for a local market. Most floriculturalists start off in this way. Flowers are among the most profitable crops having the highest returns of any specialty crop. It is possible to get started with a few hundred dollars to cover a load of potting mix, plastic pots in assorted sizes and seeds. We started with just 20 square meters and within one year had worked our way up to 180 square meters. In 15 years we had 1.5 hectares of ferns which we ended up specializing in.
Time your blooms for special occasions. Our most successful plant in the early days came believe it or not from supplying a fern Hemionitis arifolia; with its beautiful deep green and heart shape leaves, done up in a beautiful squat pot for Valentines Day. This was later followed up with Lygodium microphyllum done up in a small basket hanging down while trying to grow upwards with “I’d love to be all over you too mother, every day.” Sounds corny but it worked for mother’s day.
Ceratopetalum gummiferum was already well known as the New South Wales Christmas bush as it developed its beautiful red coloured bracts at Christmas. All we need to do was mass produce it in 400mm tubs for live Christmas trees 200mm pots for potential Christmas trees and 125mm pots for decorations. Every aspect covered and again timing for marketing was of the greatest importance.
As you can see timing was very important as was being bold and trying things that were very different.
Very few gardeners and growers utilize the weekend markets in their district to sell flowers despite the growing acceptance to grow and sell potted plants. The opportunities to make valuable contacts and they can cut out the middle man thus bringing top prices for starting out are very real.
Whether you have an interest in large showy blooms like Telopea sp. or smaller Thryptomene sp. dried flowers like Xerochrysum bracteatum or more exotic seasonal flowers like the beautiful Blandfordia grandiflora or its close cousin Blandfordia nobilis which will bring in as much as $10:00 a stem.
All native flowers are protected and the use of such flowers for private use is acceptable if the plants are native to your block and are grown in a sustainable manner. Commercial growers of native plants must attain a permit especially for those that are listed vulnerable. For further information contact the Commonwealth Department of Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation or the relevant department in your state.
Protection of Native Plants: The harvest, salvage and propagation of protected whole plants: sustainable management plan 2013-2017 has been prepared under section 115A of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.
The plan provides a risk-based approach to regulating the commercial whole plant industry, covering the licensing and management of protected plants under Schedule 13 Part 2 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. It focuses most regulatory effort on harvesting whole plants from the wild, particularly for species that are subject to exploitation, are slow growing likeXanthorrhoea sp. (Grass Trees) or spectacular in flower like the Bandfordia sp. (Christmas Bells).
The plan is specifically of interest to commercial operators who are seeking to:
* Harvest protected whole plants from their own land,
* Harvest protected whole plants from the wild, including lands such as state forests,
* Cultivate or grow protected whole plants for sale,
* Harvest seeds from protected plants from the wild for the purpose of sale.
Potential of Australian Native Flowers for Export
Australia’s potential for exporting flowers lies in its very unique and beautiful native flora. This resource has a wealth of products that generally have an excellent shelf life and are waiting to be fully developed and marketed to the world. The value of the Australian export industry is estimated to be currently around A$50 million per annum.
The main competition for the flora markets are from Israel, California in America, South African and South America but it is Australia’s uniqueness and shelf life that offers Australian floriculturalists their best advantage. These countries are better situated than Australia to the major floral purchasing countries of the world.
Of the major markets over 50% of Australia’s total flower exports are destined for markets in Japan at around 30%, North America (mostly the US), the Netherlands (11%) and Germany (3%). N.S.W Primary Industry Figures.
Asia is the area where the greatest growth lies and represents the largest consumer market in the world. There is great potential for Australian floriculturalists to expand into new Asian markets with China playing a significant role where a very small rise in per capita consumption will translate into large sales.
The problem here is that the average Chinese are going to have to be introduced to the need for flowers around the home. There is still a strong belief that flowers are strictly for ceremonious occasions and special events for dignitaries and officialdom. Coupled with this the Chinese still have a reluctance to buy or have a fondness of things hairy. This will exclude many Australian flowers like Banksia sp., Leucadendron sp. and Actinotis spp. (flannel flower.) The South African Protea sp. do not sell well in China which does not go well for the Telopea sp. the N.S.W Waratahs.
Another observation is that they are strong on ceremonious occasions like Valentines Day which one could be excused for thinking it is a Chinese occasion. This could see red roses with deeper coloured Chamelaucium sp. the Western Australia Waxflower and Thryptomene sp. especially the deeper colours take off.
Those that think the Chinese will love our Eucalyptus sprays should tread lightly as I checked this out and one whiff and the comment is “Cough medicine no thanks”.
The N.S.W Christmas Bush, Ceratopetalum gummiferum offers farmers the greatest opportunity of all coupled with big returns and a market that cannot and will not be overtaken by any other country that I can visualize. I stated earlier timing is the essence of success and no where else will the timing be as important and that is the problem. The time; in cooler locations, with the deep red forms is the “Chinese Spring Festival.” In Australia its red colours are available at Christmas , which is a good time to cash in. If I could do anything it would be to produce Ceratopetalum gummiferum to peak from the middle of January to the middle of February. This is the winner the million dollar plant. The answer to all my dreams!
Japan remains the largest single market for Australian grown flowers at the present time. Most flowers are distributed through the auction system in Japan, which leads to uncertainty in the market. Opportunities for Australian flowers rely on good quality, new species and variety in hybrids. Various larger native flowers from the Proteacea family offer the best prospects for sales.
The United States is a largely a consumer market, and imports over half of the total floricultural products sold. While the market remains dominated by traditional flowers, there is a strong demand for high quality Australian filler flowers such as Chamelaucium sp. (waxflower). Other products like festival bush are developing their own niches in the USA market. Demand for foliages and bouquets is also increasing.
The European Union (EU) is believed to consume over 50% of the world’s flowers and includes many countries with a relatively high per capita consumption for cut flowers. There is strong demand in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy and surprisingly France.
The biggest constraints in the EU are distance and competition from neighbouring countries. Other constraints include abundant labour pools, subsidised air freight and preferential tariffs and other duties which our farmers do not receive. In order to survive, Australian growers and exporters must therefore be committed to quality, service and originality.
Germany is the mainstay of international flower trade and is the biggest and most influential market in the EU.
The UK is currently the second largest importer of flower products and up to one-half of all flower sales are through supermarkets and chain stores.
Europe is a very competitive and is a very quality conscious market. Australia holds a niche market for high quality Banksia sp., New South Wales Christmas Bells (Blandfordia sp.), foliage, Chamelaucium sp. waxflower and Anigozanthus sp. kangaroo paw.
Australian Native Flowers, South African Proteaceae species and foliage lines account for around 95% of all Australian flower exports. The ‘top ten’ export lines from Australia presently are:
* Chamelaucium sp.
* Anigozanthos sp.
* Thryptomene sp.
* Stirlingia sp.
* Protea sp.
* Banksia sp.
* Leucadendron sp.
* Caustis sp.
* Scholtzia sp.
* foliage Eucalyptus sp.
The Australian native flower and Protea industry is relatively young but has already demonstrated its potential, with an ability to produce new flower varieties and colours over an extended season as new production regions are established. However, the supply of new products is critical to the industry’s survival, as is its ability to be increasingly competitive on the world market. A number of research projects are underway around the country to select and develop improved forms and new species for floriculture. Refer to the website of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.
Many native flowers and Proteas are unable to be grown all year round. However, Australia’s advantage is that a range of climatic zones enables a longer flowering period of most lines. Australian growers also have the huge advantage of being able to grow ‘out of season’ to Northern Hemisphere growers where the biggest markets are.
Traditional flowers like Roses, Carnations and Baby Tears account for less than 5% of total flower exports from Australia. Timing and quality are two factors critical to exploiting niche markets successfully.
Unfortunately native flowers account for about 10% to 15% of total domestic sales.
A number of native species with proven export demand grow naturally in NSW which include:
* Actinotus helianthi
* Anigozanthos sp.
* Boronia sp.
* Ceratopetalum gummiferum
* Chamelaucium sp.
* Crowea sp.
* Cryptandra scortechinii
* Doryanthes sp.
* Eriostemon australasius
* Ozothamnus sp.
* Telopea sp.
* Xerochrysum viscosum, amazing many Chinese think this is a native Chinese species, as it is widely grown for the floral trade in northern Yunan and Sichuan Provinces as a cut flower.
There are many other New South Wales native flower species identified as having commercial potential which include the Dodonea sp., Dryandra sp., Xerochrysum bracteatum, Serruria sp. including Serruria floribunda and Spyridium buxifolium to mention a few.
Agricultural investors need to look at and analyse their advantages and any constraints with the industry, their property and expertise.
Off farm constraints generally in the growing of cut flowers commercially are
* Market Research,
* Scientific Data
* Economies of Scale
The successful establishment of a viable cut flower operation requires a high initial capital flow and commitment for a number of years before realistic returns are realized. The infrastructure is mentioned in more detail below. In recent times, rulings by the Australian Tax Office have required growers to demonstrate more clearly the lead time for a particular crop to become commercially viable,
Because of the specialized nature of flower production prospective growers should have sound knowledge or have the ability to employ staff who have background in flower production,
Thorough research should precede any venture with a detailed understanding of key markets is crucial to exploit sales opportunities,
As the native flower industry’s is in its infancy, data about the suitability of varieties to certain situations and regions is scant at best. More research needs to be conducted on potential new areas and varieties which may have to be undertaken by the grower at his or her expense,
While the industry is traditionally one manned by small operations, some people believe the future lies in larger producers with high capital and land investments who are able to take advantage of the obvious economies of scale as well as consistency of supply. This again needs to be thoroughly investigated and would suit small to medium growers who have a good track record.
Suitable farm sites for cut flower growing should have:
* Reasonably good quality water,
* Well drained sandy loams,
* A pH from 5.5 to 7.0 depending on the crop grown,
* A good access for machinery,
* Sites that face north, north-east or east,
* Power for irrigation pumps,
* A cool room, and the packing shed facilities.
Once the site has been selected infrastructure requirements need to be addressed to grow cut flowers successfully:
* Skilled labour for crop management, picking, grading, bunching and packing is an essential prerequisite for floriculture,
* Technical advice on production, postharvest treatment (exported
flowers may be in transit and without water for up to 5 days before reaching the overseas consumer.),
* Legal, financial, marketing aspects need to be addressed prior to shipments,
* Export requirements of the intended markets.
Industry Analysis & Industry Trends on a factual basis
The floricultural industry has struggled against adverse trading conditions over the past five years, facing stagnant demand for flowers by Australian consumers, rising import penetration, and dwindling export earnings due to the high value of the dollar. Spending on cut flowers is seen as a discretionary outlay, and traditional flower arrangements may be readily substituted with other products such as chocolates, gift vouchers and charity donations.
The industry is projected to generate revenue of $330.0 million in 2013 to 2014, up by 1.5% on 2012-13 due to stronger consumer sentiment and household consumption. Despite the current upswing in sales, industry revenue is projected to decline by an annualized 1.3%
It appears that the industry is in a decline phase of its life cycle, which was bought about by the recent Global financial turn down. All indications point to continual falls in the industry, with established growers expected to entrench themselves at the expense of new comers as well as stagnant consumption. From 2007 and through to 2020, the floral industry is expected to decline at an annualized 0.5% decline compared to an annualized GDP growth of 2.5% over the same period. This highlights the industry’s decreasing contribution to the overall economy and is a key characteristic of a decline. The only bright spot that I can see for the floral trade is the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and China but as stated already it is not one that I am over confident in because of the Chinese people’s buying habits and the Chinese market is well catered for by local growers especially in the field of Lilies, Roses, Carnations and the Australia, Rhodanthe chlorocephala and Xerochrysum bracteatum which were very popular a few years ago but are also declining in popularity.
Establishment numbers are also expected to decline by an annualized 2% over the same period. This reflects the declining level of profitability in the industry due to rising import competition and also the increasing demand for lower end products from supermarkets. The level of import penetration has climbed to about 8.6% of domestic demand in 2013 to 2014 compared to that prior to the GFC, while at the same time the industry’s export earnings have contracted.
The sale of cut flowers and seeds by supermarkets and convenience stores is increasing, which has had a mixed impact on the industry. It has lifted consumers’ exposure to flowers, but has also delivered unsustainable price competition especially with florists. Industry profitability has been eroded over the past five years by price cutting for second rate standards from supermarkets, rising production costs and the inflow of cheaper imports from low cost producers.
Back to the Home gardener now and the local markets including the niche home industry market for floral arrangements have opportunities for those who choose to work from home part time. Dried flowers like Rhodanthe chlorocephala or Xerochrysum bracteatum “everlastings” last for ages and retain their colour for a long time when correctly dried. They are the perfect flowering crop in the foreground of a garden bed with the added attraction of making excellent colour in flower arrangements. If you are growing for profit or a little extra cash then the everlastings can be even better than cut flowers as at the moment you can realize around $100:00 a square meter once dried and value added.
To air dry the plants they are usually picked between late bud and prior to anthesis unless a special effect is required. The flowers are then hung upside down in a dark cool dry place free from insects and mites which may attack the flowers. The use of camphor laurel leaves or similar would suffice as an organic insecticide. Once they are fully dried usually after 6 to 12 days depending on weather conditions and humidity they can be trimmed further and wired if necessary.
The best markets for dried flowers are craft shops, antique shops florists, the markets and restaurants.
Try secure permanent orders through businesses for reception areas and the like. Often in small country towns this is an art that is forgotten and can reap good rewards. Many restaurants may be interested as cut flowers are more expensive and only last a couple of days. Make sure you have adequate back up supplies and can meet the demand on a regular basis. Having regular clientele will cut down on growing plants that might usually go to waste.
Another method is to grow plants with strong colours in pots. By growing annuals in 100mm pots is fun exciting and offers people an alternative to cut flowers. Again you will need to have adequate back up supplies and can meet the demand on a regular basis. Look at plants like Rhodanthe chlorocephala, Xerochrysum bracteatum or even Swainsona formosa but be warned the latter is an extremely difficult little guy to succeed with. The rewards for succeeding would be astronomical especially considering the fact that red and black are colours that are well accepted throughout Asia.More exotic seasonal flowers like the beautiful Blandfordia grandiflora or its close cousin Blandfordia nobilis can also be used successfully as a temporary indoor plant in a well lit area.
Fishing & Aquaculture
Australia’s major fishery products are salmon and trout, rock lobster, prawns, abalone, tuna, pearls and oysters. Australian fishing operators concentrate their efforts on estuarine and coastal species, pelagic (water column living) and demersal (bottom dwelling) species which occur along the continental shelf.
In quantity terms, Australian fisheries production increased by 2% during 2009–2010 to 241,100 tonnes, with finfish; other than tuna, prawns, oysters, tuna and rock lobster the major contributors to the total. The gross value of production fell slightly to $2.2 billion, with falls in the value of tuna ($62m) and rock lobster ($46m), and rises in finfish (other than tuna) ($41m) and prawns ($34m).
Australian fisheries production includes aquaculture as well as wild catches managed by the Australian, state and territory governments, ‘Commonwealth fisheries’ are those managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority on behalf of the Australian Government. They accounted for 15% of the total gross value of Australian fisheries production in 2009–10. State and Northern Territory governments manage inland fisheries and aquaculture, in addition to those salt water fisheries not managed by the Australian government, as described in Offshore Constitutional Settlement Arrangements.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Australian Fisheries Statistics 2010.
Aquaculture is the fastest growing primary industry in the world it is rapidly finding acceptance in Australia and is the only real alternative to wild harvesting of the dwindling and often unwittingly caught protected aquatic organisms. Aquaculture operations may involve the farming of captive bred stock or the ‘growing out’ of ‘naturally occurring’ larvae and juveniles of wild caught stocks. Aquaculture is the rearing process of both fresh water and marine organisms including kelps with the aim of increasing production, through regular stocking of ponds or enclosures, feeding and protection from predators. In 2009 to 2010, the gross value of production of Australian aquaculture products increased slightly to $870 million, or 40% of the total value of fisheries production.
Australia is recognized by local consumers as having a clean and green environment with good quality products and brands. Many Australian exporters have taken advantage of this competitive edge by establishing a position as suppliers of meat especially free range and organic beef, dairy products, fresh fruits, seafood with other products like kangaroo and crocodile farming are starting to gain acceptance both at home and abroad.
Market feedback has shown interest in Australian suppliers of powdered milk; including infant formula, UHT and pasteurized milk, cheese and butter. This interest is particularly strong in China
Seafood particularly saltwater shell fish such as oysters, crabs and live/frozen lobster and abalone are always in high demand with New Zealand being seen as our major competitor which has been more market aggressive in the past.
Wheat and barley with other grains will have to compete with Chinese farms which are being established on large scales in African countries like Ethiopia and Kenya.
Chilled or frozen meat is presently basically limited to red meat as there is currently no protocol in place for white meat and game meat) There is the real opportunity to market other meats like kangaroo, camel, buffalo provided it is seen as being sustainable, reliable and controlled.
Processed foods, Wine and Beer, Natural fruit juice, Convenience and ‘instant’ foods, Confectionery and snack products and Condiments are all likely new markets in a Chinese culture that has a changing taste which has been exploited to a small extent by America. However with a lower dollar and closer contact Australia has a brighter future and better opportunities to fill not just niche markets but large proportions of an insatiable new market
Increased interest and demand for Australian fruit is being driven by China’s strong economic growth and its rising per capita income. Market access for Australian agribusiness products to the mainland Chinese market remains a significant issue. In general, it is easier for processed foods and wine to access the market.
The biggest constraint in dealing with China is its people. Chinese vote with their hip pocket and as can be seen from above if you upset the people they are likely to reject your product instantly and the affects will be long term affecting all suppliers in that industry. Japanese products are still being rejected despite the war being over for nearly 70 years and when 1.3 billion people boycott your product you have major problems but if they embrace it hold onto to it the world is your oyster. All Chinese products have to be marked with the product place of origin within China (State) and which country it is made something Chinese people look for immediately prior to buying. Supermarkets will exploit this by actually having sections or shelves with the country of origin’s flag on the shelves. The good news for Australians is that all Australian’s who live and work in China have plated a major role in being ambassadors for our country.
The graphs below are from the Commonwealth Year Book. For more information check the Year Book out at
The gap between imports and exports closed dramatically between 2001 and 2007 before it again began to open up again in favour of Australian farmers.