Global grains expert kicks off proceedings at premier Perth research event

Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 27 Feb 2017

David Jackson, agricultural economist and director of LMC International, was a keynote speaker at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth. PHOTO: GRDC

Increasing global protein demand and expanding middle class populations in emerging economies, such as China, will drive growth in future markets for Australian grains, according to international commodities expert David Jackson.

But the director of LMC International and head of its Oilseeds and Oils research team told today’s Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update, Perth, that the Australian grains industry would also need to seek out new opportunities to be competitive for land use.

Mr Jackson was one of several international speakers at the GRDC’s premier annual Western Australian grains industry event, which is being held at Crown Perth over two days and has attracted more than 600 growers, advisers and stakeholders from right across the supply chain.

He said although most major world crop prices had been higher than long-term averages since 2005, there had been a marked drop-off since 2013 on the back of significantly more arable areas becoming available for farming in many countries.

“We needed more land as populations in emerging economies, led by China, changed their diets from staple crops to consuming more meat – as this requires more arable area than direct grain consumption,” he said.

“At the same time, since the early 1980s, there has been a rapid rise in the world area sown to oil crops and a fall in area planted to grain crops.

“The biggest growth in global crop production has come from corn, soybean, rice, rapeseed and oil palm - with wheat in sixth spot.”

Mr Jackson described the 10 years from 2000-10 as the ‘biofuel decade’ where biofuels had tied almost all world crop prices to the price of petroleum.

He said an estimated 20 percent of the world’s corn (or maize) and 20 per cent of global vegetable oil production was now used for fuel and other industrial applications.

“When the price of petroleum fell in 2013, crop prices – now closely linked to energy prices - came off as well,” Mr Jackson said.

“What we think will happen next is that as global income increases, there is likely to be a shift away from carbohydrates towards meat, dairy and vegetable oils.

“This will release more land away from carbohydrate production of rice and wheat and into growth of soybeans and corn/maize, coupled with a consumer preference for higher protein production such as meat and animal products.”

From a global to a local perspective, the audience at today’s Grains Research Update, Perth, also heard from a range of leading WA researchers and industry representatives in preparation for the upcoming 2017 winter cropping season.

On the back of WA’s record harvest of an estimated 18.2 million tonnes (according to the latest Grain Industry Association of WA Crop Report) last year and solid summer rainfall in many parts of the grainbelt in recent weeks, the State’s grain growers are gearing up for a promising start to seeding.

Significant subsoil moisture levels across the State offer a good foundation, but careful management of summer weeds, soil nutrients, diseases, pests, nutrition and frost risks will be required to ensure yield and profit potential are not compromised in 2017.

This was the message from GRDC Western Regional Panel Chairman Peter Roberts, who opened the Grains Research Update, Perth.

He said preserving stored soil moisture, preparing for likely high disease pressures and planning to manage frost risks later in the spring would be high priorities for growers this year.

Mr Roberts said 2016 had been unpredictable and challenging, despite starting with solid rainfall that continued to track well across the growing season into August.

“Waterlogging along the south coast and in south west districts of the Albany port zone caused significant issues for growers in those regions,” he said.

“Then there were the devastating spring frosts associated with record cold temperatures in some parts of the grainbelt and, with advanced growth, many cereal crop yields suffered badly.”

Mr Roberts said considering the frost incidence and severity in 2016, the achievement of a record harvest highlighted the resilience and adaptability of WA grain growers.

“What we are showcasing at the Grains Research Update, Perth - and associated GRDC Regional Update events - is the latest in research and development findings and innovations,” he said.

“This can equip growers and advisers with the knowledge and tools required to enable them to capitalise on opportunities and reduce their exposure to risk by further developing flexible, sustainable and profitable farming systems.”

Papers presented at the Grains Research Update events will be available for viewing on the GRDC website.

Contact Details 

For Interviews 

Peter Roberts, GRDC Western Panel
0428 389 060


Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
0427 189 827

GRDC Project Code GIA00004

Region West