Archive for July, 2018

Spill thrill forces focus on farmers

TONY Abbott’s concession to be more collegial and consultative has forced change on processes for delivering agricultural policy initiatives.

After his near miss in this week’s Liberal leadership challenge, the Prime Minister engineered what he says are significant internal changes to Cabinet processes, staff appointments and public service travel.

He said fundamentally, “this is going to be a government which socialises decisions before they’re finalised”.

READ MORE: ‘Kick up the bum’ for PMThe new process will see the 12 backbench committee chairs now involved in holding Cabinet discussions, at least once every two months. That includes the Coalition’s agricultural backbench committee, chaired by Victorian Liberal MP Dan Tehan.

Mr Abbott said at least every month there would also be a discussion of the full Ministry to address any issues.

“I’m really looking forward to (being) the voice of agriculture at the Cabinet table”“I want to harness all the creativity, not just ministers’ creativity, not just public service creativity, I want to harness all of the creativity and insights that this party room has to offer,” he said.

Other changes included in Mr Abbott’s new regime include getting rid of the paid parental leave scheme and axing prime ministerial knighthoods.

The Coalition also announced stronger scrutiny on the rules governing foreign investment in agricultural land on Wednesday.

Mr Tehan said the Prime Minister’s commitment to include the committee chairs more in policy decisions was “an extremely worthwhile proposition”.

“I’m really looking forward to (being) the voice of agriculture at the Cabinet table,” he said.

Mr Tehan will also be meeting on a regular basis with the cabinet’s policy unit to discuss initiatives.

“Obviously I’ll remain in constant touch with the Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, but the idea here is for us to take some policy ideas forward and I think that’s very important,” he said.

“The PM has made it very clear he wants to make this a better conduit for developing policy for the nation.”

Mr Tehan said the changes to agricultural policy weren’t urgent but any improvement to current processes would be welcomed.

He said Mr Joyce was very approachable and also attended the committee’s meetings held every Monday when parliament sits.

“Mr Joyce has been a very good conduit and the agriculture sector has been very well represented,” he said.

“But what has happened, in areas where there’s been crossover into other portfolios – not just with agriculture – there tends to be a sort of silo (effect) and it can be hard work to bring different departments together to try to solve issues.

“(Now) when issues need more than just the input of the Agriculture Department, we can bring others in and say ‘ok we need to work across portfolios to get outcomes’.

“That’s where I can see this new process being a really good tool for policy development.”

“To put it plainly, the government is spending $100 million a day more than it’s receiving at the moment”A spokesman for Mr Joyce said while Mr Abbott was already closely engaged in agricultural policy, the Minister welcomed moves to increase consultation with the backbench.

Mr Tehan said the average farmer working in the paddock wanted the federal government, “delivering profitability at the farm gate for them”.

“They won’t be too concerned by how we go about it; what they’ll want to see is a result and that’s what drives me,” he said.

Mr Tehan said the committee met this week and pinpointed the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper and implementing new rules for better scrutiny of foreign agricultural investment, as key issues.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has criticised the government for ongoing delays in finalising those two key areas – but Mr Tehan said the Coalition needed to get both processes right.

“The key thing about the commitment on the Foreign Investment Review Board changes is that we’ve got to ensure there’s not too big an administrative burden,” he said.

Mr Tehan said the government wanted to ensure the White Paper would “stand the test of time” and wasn’t just a document that’s announced one day and then a month later “is old news”.

“We’ve got to make sure there are policies and approaches in the Agricultural White Paper which will set up the agriculture sector, not only for tomorrow, but for the next three to five years,” he said.

However, Mr Tehan warned the White Paper was being designed in a tight fiscal environment.

“To put it plainly, the government is spending $100 million a day more than it’s receiving at the moment,” he said.

“We have to do something about the monetary situation, and that’s the context in which we’ve got to frame this White Paper.

“Now that doesn’t mean we can’t do things by reprioritising and ensuring the focus is really on the issues that matter; and that in particular means driving profitability back to the farm gate.

“The budget is tight and we have to admit that, but as every farmer would know you just can’t live outside your means forever and a day, because eventually the buck stops with you.”

Liberal MP Angus Taylor – also a Committee member -said the White Paper needed to address issues around agricultural finance.

He said various parts of the agricultural sector faced a “debt crisis… and we’ve got to start addressing that head on”.

Mr Taylor said any improvements to agricultural financing via the White Paper process would also relate to drought policy.

“At the end of the day you get through drought because you’re able to finance your way through drought; you can’t make it rain,” he said.

“We all know droughts hit a lot harder if you’re carrying too much debt and so that policy solution is tied up with how you finance agriculture for the next 25 to 30 years.”

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Vietnam ban bruises fruit sector

VIETNAM remains closed to Australian fresh fruit over concerns of Mediterranean fruit fly, with no resolution on the horizon.

The Vietnamese government stopped issuing import permits for fresh Australian fruit from January 1 this year and has sought advice regarding Australia’s management of Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly).

According to the Australian Horticultural Exporters Association (AHEA), the Australian horticulture industry stands to lose more than $40 million per annum with the ban affecting some 41 commodities.

Australian officials in the region are reportedly meeting as often as possible with Vietnamese counterparts to minimise trade disruptions and open trade opportunities again.

The Department of Agriculture says it is holding regular discussions with industry peak bodies.

Vietnamese relationship valuedAustralian officials are seeking recognition by Vietnam that Medfly is contained to Western Australia and that industries there have systems and treatments within orchards and packing sheds to ensure that the insects are not exported along with fresh fruit.

A Department spokesperson told Good Fruit and Vegetables it has provided Vietnam with 23 detailed technical market access submissions encompassing 41 fresh fruit commodities including table grapes, cherries, citrus and summerfruit to protect existing trade.

“The technical submissions address items such as pest control and orchard hygiene. In addition, the department has made a number of additional written representations regarding the status of Mediterranean fruit fly in Australia since November when Vietnam raised its specific concerns,” the spokesperson said.

The Department said it valued its trade relationship with Vietnam very highly and is committed to providing Vietnam with products that meet their importing country requirements.

The AHEA reported Australia is experiencing market failure for many horticultural commodities this season.

It listed cherries, stonefruit, mangoes and – as a result of the Vietnam closure – table grapes, as crops battling an oversupplied domestic market.

AHEA executive director Michelle Christoe said given the Australian and Vietnamese governments have both been in negotiations since November 2014, a resolution to current problems could be a long time coming.

“Vietnam want access for some of its produce, lychees, mangoes and dragonfruit,” Ms Christoe said.

“The ban in Vietnam should never have happened. Australia was put on notice of the potential ban and it should have been more proactive to bring it to resolve.

“Only time will tell whether the ban will have the same long lasting impact that similar bans from Taiwan and Thailand have had in recent years, and the time it will take to get back into those markets.”

Ms Christoe said Australia needs a senior ministerial approach to resolve the situation.

“The industry needs resolution on key market access issues that will make a difference to the survival of horticulture in Australia,” she said.

“The system needs urgent review to prioritise activities that will make a significant difference.”

WA growers call for better controlsThe ban has fuelled some Western Australian stonefruit growers to call for better Medfly control measures from the WA Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA).

Hills Orchard Improvement Group (HOIG) members said fruit growers were “suffering the consequences of lack of action” to control Medfly.

In a statement HOIG claimed members were concerned “other long-standing, traditional export destinations may follow the lead of Vietnam”.

HOIG has previously called on DAFWA to implement area-wide Medfly management systems, similar to those in the Eastern States, which involve all landowners in an area being part of a monitoring, trapping, baiting and property hygiene program – usually in conjunction with a release of sterile male flies to mate with any female flies.

HOIG spokesman Brett DelSimone said the Vietnamese government’s decision to stop issuing fresh fruit import permits to Australia was “a concerning escalation of the consequences that industry is suffering due to DAFWA inactivity in developing area-wide management”.

“Departmental staff have travelled the world for decades, at taxpayer expense, studying area-wide management and are yet to implement more than a few trials across affected production areas,” Mr DelSimone said.

“The last thing we need is further obstacles to export access into new and traditional markets.

“This has come about due to years of neglect by DAFWA, which has custody of Medfly control.

“The blame lays squarely at the feet of this department.”

DAFWA director of plant biosecurity John Van Schagen said the impact of the Vietnam ban will predominately be felt in the Eastern States that are free from this pest and have systems in place to maintain that freedom.

He confirmed that in WA, only the Ord growing region in the north was free from Medfly, but he rejected the claims DAFWA’s lack of action on area-wide management systems was to blame.

“As with other established pests or weeds, it is up to growers to manage these pests on their property,” Mr Van Schagen said.

“Many growers are working hard on control and DAFWA continues to work with and provide advice to growers about control options, which include baiting, mass trapping, monitoring, orchard hygiene and permitted cover sprays.

“An area-wide management or community-wide approach to fruit fly control uses a range of methods in a co-ordinated way over an area as small as two adjacent orchards, to entire towns and growing areas.”

APAL Industry Services Manager Annie Farrow said she is eager to see the Department of Agriculture work with the Vietnamese government and achieve access to the market again.

“Whilst our export volumes to Vietnam have been small in the past, it is an important and expanding market to a number of growers,” Ms Farrow said.

“In 2013 we exported 82 tonnes of pears to Vietnam, up on the 64 tonnes of the previous year. And, for the first nine months of 2014 pear shipments had increased to 106 tonnes.

“The market for apples is more competitive and Australia has not yet found its niche in Vietnam. Shipments of apples are down, with only 27 tonnes shipped in 2013, compared with 39 tonnes in 2012.”

More give, less take: AHEAAustralia may need serve up more “give” and less “take” if it’s to smooth over Vietnam’s ban on fruit imports.

“If Australia wants re-entry into Vietnam, it needs to fast track the approval process of the import applications,” Ms Christoe said.

“Australia has dragged its feet in the science of import risk assessments. We have been reviewing lychees since 2003.

“Whilst Australia is concerned about biosecurity, the issue here is not a pest concern.

“It is a lack of resource and priority on the issues to bring it to conclusion. The process is not working.

“Meanwhile other importers are filling the void, and the industry has new competition in markets that were traditionally exclusively for Australia.”

The situation has prompted AHEA to propose solutions, make submissions to government and call for more commercial mindedness from the government, whilst also recognising it needs to assist the government in achieving commercially viable agreements.

Although Ms Christoe commended the government in achieving recent free trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China, she said if Australia cannot get access for its commodities, it can’t take advantage of them.

“The way the department is engaging with the export industry is not working,” she said.

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Tender search for food regulator

THE body handling a variety of food regulation issues in Australia and New Zealand wants to improve the project management of its larger research and action initiatives, in response to cost-cutting pressures from government.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) looks at proposals and applications to change the Food Standards Codes for the two countries.

One reason for referring to them in the plural is that New Zealand chooses to specify some modifications and exceptions to provisions which are otherwise totally uniform between the two polities. Regulatory officials and most business interests prefer to have the divergences as infrequent as possible, in the interests of production uniformity in a common trading market.

There is a constant flow of items needing attention, from product composition, packaging sizes, fine print on grocery items, use of insecticides, all watched over with close attention by the food industry, health advocates, consumer groups, farmers and other interested parties.

So drives for “efficiency dividends” and a general cost-trimming mood at higher administrative levels have induced FSANZ to look for outside assistance.

“In 2014, in light of diminishing government resources, a series of change management related initiatives were initiated,” the tender document explains.

“One of these initiatives was a project to rethink and redesign internal approaches and processes for projects to ensure they are fit for purpose.

“Whilst a number of changes have been made, an expert external review of FSANZ’s project management is seen as desirable at this stage.”

TenderSearch says the closing date for applications is March 2, at either 154 Featherstone St, Wellington, New Zealand or 55 Blackall St, Barton, ACT for hand delivery, or the postal address in either Wellington or Canberra. FSANZ is registered for GST in both Australia and New Zealand.

If the successful consultant is based in New Zealand, the fee calculated will have a GST component at the New Zealand rate of 15 per cent. The agency is looking for rapid implementation. It hopes to have an initial scoping meeting by March 23 and a seminar for staff outlining the results by June 5.

The focus will be on the large scale projects, where there should be more room for improvements. The aim is fewer and more carefully tailored projects, making better use of resources and achieving faster completion times. Included in the standard references to methods, structure, processes and leadership is a look at culture, or the embedded habits, corporate memories and expectations of the workforce.

The food policy framework for Australia is set by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulations, consisting of the health and agriculture ministers of Australasian governments.

Aspects covered include use of ingredients, processing aids, colouring, additives, vitamins and minerals, novel new foods, composition of dairy, meat and beverages, and labelling for both packaged and unpacked foods, including specific mandatory warnings or advisory labels.

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New Hope targets Moxey dairy

CHINA’S largest privately owned agribusiness company and the Perich family from Sydney are looking to buy a $100 million dairy in western NSW, as the lower dollar and China free trade agreement revive foreign interest in the farm sector.

The Chengdu-based New Hope Group and the Periches are targeting the giant Moxey Farms dairy outside Forbes as their first joint transaction.

Family patriarch Tony Perich told The Australian Financial Review his private company was doing due diligence on the Moxey dairy and was looking to bring New Hope in as an investor.

A short list of bidders was finalised earlier in the month by NAB Advisory, which is conducting the sale process for the Moxey family.

Mr Perich said the listed Freedom Foods, which is controlled by his family, was not involved in the deal.

Offshore interest in the Australian farm sector comes amid surging demand from China’s increasingly wealthy middle class for higher-quality imported food.

Beef and powdered milk have seen strong growth in recent years, but the latest trend in China is for fresh milk. This has companies such as NSW dairy co-operative Norco air freight fresh milk into Shanghai, where it sells for $7.60 a litre in supermarkets and online.

Chinese fresh milk imports grew by 74 per cent last year and have increased tenfold since 2010.

New Hope, which has annual sales of $US8.8 billion ($11.3 billion), said it will begin selling an Australian fresh milk product this year.

It has earmarked $500 million to invest in Australian agricultural assets over the next decade.

The bulk of these funds are expected to go into the dairy sector and be invested alongside the Perich family.

New Hope’s first Australian investment was in late 2013 when it bought a controlling stake in Queensland’s Kilcoy abattoir.

The investment agreement between the Perich family and New Hope was struck on the same days as negotiations concluded in Canberra for the free trade agreement with China.

This will see tariffs on Australian dairy products eliminated 11 years after the FTA comes into force.

“We are definitely seeing more interest from both institutional and private investors in dairy due to the depreciating Australian dollar, the attractive free trade agreement and some favourable pricing,” said Darren Craike from Bell Potter Securities.

The Moxey family put its 2700-hectare dairy operation on the market last October.

Its preference is to remain involved in business, but bring in a strategic partner, allowing it to pay down debt while also expanding.

The operation is estimated to be worth about $100 million.

It milks 3500 cows, produces 50 million litres of milk annually and generated earnings before interest and tax of about $12 million last year.

One financial investor said he was told earlier this month his consortium had been unsuccessful in its bid for Moxey, as the family was looking to bring in a strategic investor.

This would favour a partnership between the Perich family and New Hope, which both have strong links into China.

New Hope is China’s largest feed-grain producer. It also has some of the country’s leading red meat, dairy, pork and poultry brands.

The Perich family runs one of Australia’s biggest dairy farms west of Sydney and have supply agreements with China’s Bright Foods and the Shenzhen JiaLiLe Food Company. With the Pactrum Dairy Group, the family also has extensive property holdings in western Sydney.

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Cold storage is hot property

Increasing demand for fresh food in supermarkets is driving interest in refrigerated warehouses.MORE than half a billion dollars’ worth of refrigerated warehouses are on the market as the demand for fresh food among such supermarket chains as Coles, Woolworths and Metcash attracts new entrants to the sector.

JLL Australian head of industrial Michael Fenton said it shows the refrigerated logistics centre is becoming a genuine asset class. “It is coming up as a core sub-sector of the market,” Mr Fenton said. “Investors are now seeing refrigerated logistics and distribution investments as a way to efficiently deploy more capital and grow the scale of their portfolios rapidly.”

As revealed by The Australian Financial Review, Goodman Group and Brickworks have put up for sale, through JLL and Colliers International, a $250 million-plus, 50,000-square-metre chilled distribution centre at Sydney’s Eastern Creek.

Separately, family-owned cold storage company Oxford Cold Storage has appointed CBRE to sell its 24-hectare Laverton North estate in Victoria, also tipped to fetch about $250 million.

Analysis by JLL Research shows that of the 94 refrigerated logistics and distribution facilities identified in major capital cities, 27 of the largest are occupied by Coles, Woolworths or Metcash. A further 29 are occupied by Americold or Swire Cold Storage – two of the groups responsible for major contracts to Coles and Woolworths for meat, dairy and other products.

JLL director of national industrial research Nick Crothers said the refrigerated logistics and distribution segment is estimated to account for nearly 18 per cent of warehouse industry revenue in 2014-15, making it an $859 million dollar industry.

“Food and beverages imports in customs value has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, increasing 8.7 per cent per year in the three years to November 2014,” he said.

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Beef 2015 stud judges announced

Stud cattle judging at Beef Australia 2015 will be held from Tuesday May 5 to Thursday May 7.JUDGES for the stud cattle competition at Beef Australia 2015, Rockhampton, have been announced.

Check out who will be making the big decisions.

Brangus: Renee Rutherford

Renee Rutherford works at her family’s Redskin Droughtmaster stud at “Redbank”, on the Fitzroy river.

Ms Rutherford has twice been a judge at the Brisban Ekka, as well as judging at many of her local shows.

Located 75 kilometres west of Rockhampton, “Redbank” also runs a Droughtmaster/Brahman based commercial herd.

Bazadais: Lindsay Dingle

A third generation beef producer, Lindsay Dingle breeds both stud and commercial Simmental and Simbrah cattle.

Mr Dingle judged at Beef Australia in 2012, and has previously judged at feature shows in Queenlsand and Western Australia, as well as at local country shows.

Blonde D ’Aquitaine, Junior Led Steers, Paraders: Terry Nolan

A director of the family owned meat processing Nolan Meats, Terry Nolan is involved in cattle breeding, backgrounding, feedlotting, beef processing and distribution.

Based in Gympie, Queensland, Mr Nolan judged at the inaugural Beef Australia in 1988, and in 2010 was named the Maersk Shipping Distinguished Australian of the Year for service to the Australian export meat industry.

Simbrah, Simmental, Piedmontese: Rob Sinnamon

Manager of Yulgilbar Pastoral Company, Baryulgil, New South Wales, Rob Sinnamon runs 5500 stud and commercial Santa Gertrudis cattle.

National Champion Young Beef Cattle Judge in 1987, Mr Sinnamon has judged the majority of beef breeds at every Royal show in Australia.

Brahman: David Bondfield

Co-principal of Palgrove stud with wife Prue, David Bondfield’s family was among the first breeders of Charolais in Australia.

Based in south east Queensland, Palgrove cattle have won the interbreed competition at the Brisbane Royal a record 10 times in the past 23 years.

He has judged cattle at every Royal show in Australia, as well as at events in New Zealand, Canada, United States and Scotland.

Limousin, Gelbvieh, Dexter, Pinzgauer: Neil Goetsch

Neil Goetsch has 38 years’ experience in the livestock industry, showing both commercial and stud cattle.

This includes running a stud, commercial feedlot, fitting service.

Droughtmaster: Lawson Geddes

Lawson Geddes, along with wife Linda and their children, run the stud and commercial Brangus cattle operation Couti Outi, 150km north of Rockhampton

The family also have Brangus breeding and fattening operations across Queensland in the Springsure, Dingo and Anakie districts.

Romagnola, Sahiwal: Reade Radel

Reade Radel’s family runs cattle across four properties in the Taroom, Injune and Augathella districts, Queensland.

This included the Kandoona Red Brahman Stud. Mr Radel has judged at shows across Queensland, including previously at Beef Australia.

Charbray, Devon, South Devon: Andrew Chapman

Based at “Rowanlea”, south west of Calliope in central Queensland, Andrew Chapman is a fourth generation cattleman.

Now managing Rowanlea Cattle Company, a Santa Gertrudis and Brahman stud and commercial cattle operation, Mr Chapman has judged at regional and Royal shows in three states.

Red Angus, Red Poll: Glenn Trout

Raised on a stud and commercial cattle property between Chinchilla and Eidsvold in Queensland, Glenn Trout has managed the Tynan family’s Birubi Limousin and Lim-flex Studs at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, since 1996.

He has previously judged at events including Farmfair International Edmonton, Canada 2014 and the Alberta Supreme Show, as well as royal shows across Australia.

Angus, Lowline: Steve Pocock

Steve Pocock has worked in cattle breeding, feedlotting and stud operations across New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Currently operations manager at Brunette Downs Station for AACo, Mr Pocock has judged in the US as a member of the University of Illinios team, as well as locally.

Charolais: Matthew Welsh

Matthew Welsh family’s business, Welsh Cattle Co, has evolve over the years from commercial breeding to a major seedstock operation, Huntington Charbrays.

Shorthorn: Jason Catts

Jason Catts established Futurity Shorthorns in 1987 with wife Kylie and his parents John and Althea.

Now running the business, Mr Catts has judged at numerous royal shows, most recently the Angus at the 2011 Brisbane EKKA.

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Pilot study on OJD at Wagga

THE sheep industry is set to benefit from two new innovative research projects that will be undertaken at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga.

The projects, funded by the NSW Sheep Industry Fund, were announced by NSW Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, at Wagga last week.

The first of the research project will be a pilot study to investigate the potential claimed link between soil pH, nutritional conditions and the clinical expression of Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD).

The results from this trial would then determine if further research in this area was warranted.

The second project will look at the effectiveness of vitamin and mineral supplements commonly used in sheep in NSW.

“This research will provide sheep producers with unbiased scientific information to help them decide if vitamin and mineral supplements are effective and economically worthwhile,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“The results from this new research will provide valuable information to sheep producers and ensure sustainable and profitable production into the future.”

Ms Hodgkinson said the initiative delivers on Goal 1 of the NSW Agriculture Industry Action Plan launched last year – to maintain a responsive and flexible industry.

“This strategic roadmap was developed between industry and the NSW government and ensures the continued growth of the State’s $12 billion primary industries sector,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

Sheep Advisory Group chairman Andrew Martel said the group provided advice to the Ms Hodgkinson on proposals for the use of the funds.

He said the NSW Sheep Industry Fund was used for research, extension or surveillance projects with outcomes that deliver practical benefits to NSW sheep producers.

“The Sheep Advisory Group believe the research to be undertaken in the two projects announced will clearly benefit the industry.”

Applicants seeking funding from the NSW Sheep Industry Fund for research, extension or surveillance projects may apply using the application form on the Department of Primary Industries website.

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Rice outperforms cane at Burdekin

Allan Milan checking his wet season crop with SunRrice northern operations manager Steve Rogers.BURDEKIN cane grower Allan Milan calculates he made 50 per cent better net return from rice than he would have if the same land had grown sugar cane last season.

Rice, yielding nine tonnes a hectare from 54ha, also delivered a 30pc better return per megalitre of irrigation water than sugar.

A leap in input costs associated with cane farming in the past decade, particularly electricity to run irrigation pumps, have convinced Mr Milan and his wife Lynette to make better use of fallow cane land on their Giru district farm east of Ayr.

Cane crop input costs had jumped almost $10 to $30 for every harvested tonne in just eight years.

“There’s got to be more than one way to skin a cat,” said Mr Milan, pictured checking his wet season crop (expected to average about 8t/ha) with SunRrice northern operations manager Steve Rogers (right).

The Milans, with teenage sons Ryan and Caleb, expanded this season’s rice area to 184ha of their 560ha aggregation and will probably plant a dry season crop of up to 280ha.

Mr Milan said northern yields and returns, particularly for niche varieties, had improved notably since rice was previously grown in the Burdekin in the 1990s, with aerobic crops yielding about 2t/ha better than the 7t/ha previously grown in flooded bay systems.

“It’s an exciting time. SunRice has come in with the resources to provide technical support, markets and new varieties,” Mr Milan said.

“Although a lot of people are reluctant to leave the security of cane growing, there’s quite a bit of interest in rice.

“A fair few neighbours are keeping an eye on what we’re doing.”

Solid grain legume markets were also an attraction for growers using their 20pc fallow rotation area to grow mungbeans other pulses.

Many cane growers were also looking ahead at diversification options because of looming changes to cane marketing structures by global milling giant Wilmar.

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Late upgrades to Aussie crop

NATIONAL forecaster the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resources Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has made some late revisions to its final numbers for the 2014-15 winter crop.

Senior commodities analyst at ABARES Peter Collins said total national winter crop production had been increased slightly from the December figure to 38.2 million tonnes.

This was on the back of a 6 per cent increase in Western Australia and a 5pc upward revision in Victoria.

“What we found was that in Victoria, in spite of the well-publicised tough season in the Wimmera and Mallee, a lot of other areas had years better than expected, with frost damage not quite as severe as growers thought,” Mr Collins said.

In WA, he said while there were issues with hail and heavy rain at harvest it had not influenced the overall figure too much.

“It would have been a devastating event for those that copped it, but it did not have a big impact on the State as a whole.”

The 38.2mt crop is squarely in average territory, in spite of big rainfall deficits right down the east coast.

“It was a below average season from Queensland to Victoria, but there was a bigger than average crop in WA so it balanced out to an extent.”

The crop was 13pc down year on year, but Mr Collins said the 2013-14 harvest was a large one, based on near record production in WA and South Australia.

National wheat production fell 12pc to 23.6 million tonnes while

barley output dipped 18pc to 8 million tonnes and canola dropped 10pc to 3.4 million tonnes.

The wheat figure is well below the five-year average, but Mr Collins pointed out this average was made up of several good seasons.

“It would probably be quite comparable to the 10-year average, which includes a couple of those drought years.”

Mr Collins said the season could be described as reasonable.

“There were a lot of issues throughout the year, but the end result is not too far short of the average.”

The major falls in production occurred down the east coast.

Total production also looked to fall substantially in SA, down 12pc to 7.6 million tonnes, and WA, down 16pc to 14.6 million tonnes, but Mr Collins said it was important to remember these two states had come off historically high figures the season before.

“In the case of WA in particular, it is still very much an above average crop.”

Mr Collins said total canola production was down 10pc, but still clocked in at 3.4mt, well above averages up to 2010.

“We lifted forecasts slightly from December, primarily on the back of better yields than we thought in WA and Victoria.

“The areas impacted by the dry in Victoria were not necessarily the major canola producing regions, while in WA the weather damage in the south was not as significant as first feared.”

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Pressure on Milos Trifunovic to score goals

Milos Trifunovic at Jets training on Thursday. Picture: Max-Mason Hubers​THEY arrived in Newcastle with high hopes and, in some cases, illustrious reputations.

But can Serbian import Milos Trifunovic succeed where the likes of Emile Heskey, Mario Jardel, Michael Bridges, Francis Jeffers, Edmundo Zura and Edson Montaño failed and provide the Jets with a goal haul in double figures this season?

In the 10 seasons since the A-League’s inception, only two Newcastle players, Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart, have scored 10 or more goals in a campaign.

Griffiths found the net 14 times in the championship-winning 2007-08 season, and Taggart scored 16 in 2013-14. Both were Golden Boot winners.

The best single-season return from an overseas player was Heskey’s nine-goal tally in 2012-13.

Trifunovic, who trained for the first time with his Newcastle teammates on Sunday, has scored 97 goals in a 327-game professional career at clubs in Serbia, Sweden, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and China.

Jets coach Scott Miller accepts that for his team to challenge for the play-offs they must dramatically improve their firepower up front.

Last season’s wooden-spooners scored only 23 goals in 27 games, the fewest in the A-League and 19 behind sixth-placed Brisbane.

‘‘If you look at the statistics from that, driven from there, you’d probably want him to score at least 10 to 15,’’ Miller said of his new recruit.

‘‘Now, that’s not my ambition for him. He’ll set his own targets.

‘‘But if we want to achieve our ambition, we need a lot of people pitching in, not only Milos.’’

Speaking with teammate Mateo Poljak acting as interpreter, Trifunovic was on the same wavelength as his new coach.

‘‘He doesn’t want to talk about himself,’’ Poljak said.

‘‘He wants to leave it on the pitch for everyone else to judge.

‘‘But probably the biggest point is he’s an 18-yard box player, and so far wherever he’s played he delivered 10 to 15 goals, so that’s probably his main target this year.’’

Asked if 15 goals was realistic, Poljak replied, on behalf of Trifunovic: ‘‘Obviously you can’t know what’s going to happen, but he can promise that he’s going to work hard.

‘‘He believes that he can score goals. What number that’s going to be, obviously, he can’t know before the season.’’

The 30-year-old had a brief training session with the rest of Newcastle’s players on Thursday before individual shuttle runs with conditioning staff.

‘‘The initial response was good,’’ Miller said.

‘‘It was obviously a limited session for him, but he’s looking well, he’s physically fit, and he actually did some conditioning as well, which he came through very positively … Milos is right down the track of where we want him.

‘‘It’s now more about training with the team daily, to understand the principles.

‘‘Physically he’s there, mentally he’s there, but it’s a case of knowing how we want to play.’’

While Trifunovic speaks limited English, several Jets players can speak Serbian, so Miller said the language barrier would not be a problem.

‘‘The first thing we did this morning was a three v one session, which was highly technical,’’ Miller said.

‘‘He took it on board straight away.’’

Miller said after extensive research and references he established that Trifunovic was ‘‘very dynamic’’ in front of goal and capable of succeeding in the A-League.

He was hopeful of giving him some game time in an intra-club hit-out at Magic Park, Broadmeadow, on Saturday.

‘‘I’d like to include him in that at some part,’’ Miller said.

‘‘Whether or not it’s 45 minutes or at least 30 minutes, I think fans would like to see him, as well as his teammates.’’

The Jets still face a race against time to ensure their target man has his paperwork processed for the round-one game against the Phoenix in Wellington on October 11.

‘‘I’m preparing him as if he’s available,’’ Miller said.

‘‘I know the New Zealand issue is obviously an issue, [because of] where he’s from, and [football manager] Nick DeLuca is in Sydney today working on that as we speak.’’

● The Jets have announced a new jersey sponsor in global smartphone and tablet brand Alcatel OneTouch, whose logo will feature on the back of their away jerseys this season.

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