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29 September 2021
I’ve been farming for a long time, but I never cease to be amazed by the annual cycle of renewal that happens on farms all over Australia in every season.
In a cropping business we take a single seed, we add some water and nutrient. We turn that one seed into hundreds of seeds... into food.
There’s no more spectacular example of this annual cycle than in the fields of yellow we see all over our region at this time of year.
Two kilograms of canola seed spread over a hectare in April, turned into 2000 to 3000 kilograms of tiny, oil-filled capsules by November. How cool is that?
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If we think about this in terms of economic benefit, agriculture is one of the few industries that makes new money.
Industries such as mining extract a resource and monetise it and manufacturing does add value by taking components and creating a saleable product.
But with agriculture, it’s brand-new wealth creation year after year.
Why then, have we watched a general decline in the economic health of rural communities during the past 50 years or so? Part of the answer lies in the fact Australia has largely been a commodity producer in agriculture. We grow large volumes of a product and ship it out in bulk form to let someone else do the value adding.
As a nation we cannot and should not continue to do this. If we only grow enough food to feed 65-million people, we can feed those who value safe, high-quality food products.
The food-manufacturing sector should be a cornerstone of the post-COVID economy.
Secondly, if we think about the value of agriculture at the point food and fibre is in the hands of a consumer, the number is many times the value at farm level.
Farmers have first point of control in an incredibly valuable industry, yet a diminishing percentage of that value flows back to farms and regional communities. Influence and control along the supply chain no longer sits with farmers.
We can do something about both of these issues, but it requires us to organise ourselves as an industry and as regional people.
Individually, we have little influence, but well-organised, professionally managed groups can drive better outcomes for their business and their communities. It’s an opportunity we must embrace.
• David Matthews is a Rupanyup farmer. In the early 1990s he established Wimmera Grain Company, a pulse processing and export business. He was founding chairman of the first Community Bank in Australia, which opened in Rupanyup and Minyip in 1998 and is a non-executive director of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group and Australian Grain Technologies. He has recently established Farm Trade Australia with the intention of building a farmer-owned agribusiness on the east coast of Australia. Mr Matthews will present ‘From left field’ column for The Weekly Advertiser’s AgLife feature in the last edition of every month.
The entire September 29, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
The entire September 29, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!