Grains Business Forum launched

One of the Strategy’s observations that is likely to be vigorously debated is its call for a new peak industry body. It reports “a widespread view” that existing representative bodies do not meet the requirements of a peak body – a body able to provide a non-aligned, non-political forum for all value chain participants.

It says such an inclusive body is crucial if the industry is to successfully address issues such as QA, traceability, and develop policies on genetic modification.

It has identified the following roles for a new peak organisation:

Initially the Strategy recommends that the new Australian Grains Business Forum, launched at Grains Week, should fulfill the role of a peak body. This business forum will be supplemented by a grains producers’ forum, two members of which will also participate in the business forum. The intention of the forums is to facilitate on-going dialogue between all sectors and grower factions.

The Strategy also analyses the role of the GRDC, strongly recommending against its commercialisation or privatisation. It says the GRDC’s support of knowledge creation must remain open and unconstrained, and free to provide rapid responses to research needs.

The plan supports the GRDC’s role as a research leader in grains, and as the determinant of national research priorities – including an adjustment in focus from grains supply to ‘grain value delivery’.

Knowledge creation, management, and communication has been identified as the key to industry responsiveness to opportunities and risks.

The Strategy says information that is pre-‘commercial in confidence’ must be freely available to growers and researchers to create compounding options. It says rates of change from 2005 to 2010 are likely to be so great that much of the knowledge will need to be acquired and transferred in real time.

This ‘industry development map’ shows the progression from foundation research through transition research phases to early and developed commercialisation. It also highlights, in orange, the potential and need for investment in new technologies, compared to the likely trend of the status quo.

Pocknee & Associates’ research has shown that to at least 2010, the highest impact on value creation throughout the value chain is the performance of growers. This in turn depends on growers’ access to information on consumer demand, application and processing requirements, and access to appropriate farm inputs, especially seed stock.

The research indicated that government expectations that commercial interests will fund adequate foundation and transition research are unlikely to be met.

These areas of research do not attract significant research funds from commercial interests anywhere in the world and the consultants’ interviews with local and international science investors confirmed this.

Their report concludes that for Australia to have an internationally competitive and sustainable grains industry, a strong foundation and transition research base, funding by government and the industry will be essential.

Main issues from grower workshops

Interviews conducted with growers across australia by Story Marketing throughout 2003 identified these shared themes: