By Peter Reading, Managing Director, Grains Research and Development Corporation
The grains industry has taken some big steps in recent weeks, beginning with one of the best Grains Week forums in recent years, and the follow-on work to consolidate the Australian Grains Industry Strategy 2005-2025.
There was a vibrancy and sense of purpose, shared by all the major players, including groups that have in the past been divided by strong differences of opinion.
The strategy has given the industry a clear insight into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and the need for much more cohesion among all sectors. The general recognition of the need to eliminate industry fragmentation and duplication of resources, and to have a single, strong voice on major industry-wide issues, is a positive sign for the future.
Importantly, there was genuine and broad-based support for the two new forums that will be responsible for identifying priorities, and for establishing strategies and action. To keep the momentum of Grains Week going, the forums will concentrate initially on areas where there is common agreement.
The growers" forum - the Australian Grains Forum - which includes representatives of the Grains Council of Australia, the Grain Growers Association, United Grower Holdings and the Pastoralists" and Graziers" Association of WA Inc., has already had several meetings and come up with a suggested platform to move forward.
The Australian Grains Business Forum - representing the whole value chain - will have had its first meeting by the time this issue of Ground Cover goes to press.
For the GRDC there has been positive recognition of its role in funding the strategy and pulling it together. With signs that the whole industry will get behind the strategy, the GRDC will be in a stronger position to continue towards consolidating the total national R&D effort.
If the strategy"s forecasts are right then we really have to get our R&D act together. There simply isn"t the room or time for excessive duplication among states and among research institutions.
If projections for increases in demand for grain, particularly for new end-uses, are only half right, we are still looking at a two-fold increase in production requirements. Meeting this challenge is going to require an enormous R&D effort. In the meantime we also have the job of making sure that growers are comfortable with the strategy and understand its intention and implications.
One element of the Australian Grains Forum will be a roadshow to get the message out among growers; explaining what needs to be done and why.
Growers need to become more aware of the fact that their involvement in the value chain does not end when their grain drops into a silo. Understanding where that grain goes and how it is going to be used will become increasingly important as the requirements of traceability, quality assurance and identity preservation flow back down the value chain to the source.
This is the future we face, but if we fail to capitalise on what has come out of Grains Week 2004, the only people to blame will be ourselves.