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Where have the bees gone?

IT’S THE bee version of a mystery thriller. Hives full of healthy honey bees suddenly empty. Inside, beekeepers the world over would find abandoned young and a queen but no worker bee corpses.
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At first apiarists worried a new disease was infecting their colonies. Evidence would later show bees were stressed out – by pesticides, pests and poor food quality – but not even that could explain the rapid decimation of colonies.

Now an Australian-led team has discovered how multiple stressors trigger a series of events that can quickly lead to a total breakdown of bee society.

“It’s very rapid,” said research leader Andrew Barron, from Macquarie University.

“Your colony goes from having lots of bees to no bees in a few weeks. There’s no obvious pathogen and there’s no corpses left in the hive,” said Dr Barron.

Known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), it has affected about 30 per cent of honey bee colonies in Europe and North America each year over the past decade. Australian honey bee colonies, which play a significant role in crop production, worth about $5 billion a year, have so far been unaffected.

“When you get a colony failing like that, you’re not just seeing the death of individuals but the absolute collapse of a whole society,” he said.

Rather than focus on the stress chemical exposure, pests and pathogens had on individual bees, Dr Barron and his team wondered what impact chronic stress was having on bees’ highly sophisticated hierarchical communities.

It is well known that honey bees delay leaving their hive to forage until later in adulthood. Foraging for nectar and pollen is hard work, and bees frequently die from exhaustion or getting lost.

But if external stressors such as pests or pesticides kill too many forager bees at once, it triggers a rapid maturation of the next generation and prompts them to leave the nest before they’re are ready.

“Bees who start to forage when they’ve been adults for less than two weeks are just not good at it. They take longer, and they complete fewer trips.”

When Dr Barron and his team placed tiny radio trackers on young forager bees they discovered they also died earlier.

When the team entered this information into a model they found these premature deaths triggered a vicious cycle, whereby subsequent generations of inefficient foragers could not return enough resources to keep the colony going, leading to its collapse.

“Our model suggests bees are very good at buffering against stress, but there’s a tipping point and then you see this rapid transition into complete societal failure,” Dr Barron said.

Dr Barron said their findings, which have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, are the first to propose an explanation for the unusually rapid collapse of bee colonies.

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Better forecasts still under the weather

CONFIRMING what most farmers already know, research shows that while weather forecasting is more accurate than ever, predictions should not be taken as gospel.
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Newly completed research by a South Australian Nuffield scholar says that weather forecasting has become increasingly accurate in recent years, but farmers who take predictions literally are taking a big risk.

In his paper Weather Forecasting and Business Management Systems, Robin Schaefer says five- and seven-day forecasts in Australia have increased in accuracy by 45 per cent over the past 30 years, while the three-day forecast has increased accuracy by 27 per cent to become 97 per cent accurate.

Forecasting technology and methods had come a long way with the advent of more sophisticated technology like satellite forecasting, but primary producers should still be wary of the impact of over-subscribing to forecast data said Mr Schaefer, who undertook his Nuffield scholarship study with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

“Given the uncertain nature of weather forecasts, the riskiest thing anyone could do is to take a weather forecast literally,” said Mr Schaefer, who shares a collaborative farming venture at Loxton, SA.

“In the media we see stories of farmers who followed a forecast of a drought literally, made a dramatic business decision, such as deciding not to sow any crop at all or totally de-stocking, which proved to be the correct decision and resulted in a dramatic escape from its effects.

“For every one of these stories, there are many more where a dramatic decision proved to be incorrect resulting in huge losses.

“As weather forecasts continue to become more accurate farmers will begin to increase their reliance on them. However, this could increase the risk to the business, especially when the forecast will inevitably be wrong.”

The paper looks at an array of decision-making tools available to farmers in Australia and beyond, including popular services like Climate Kelpie, and forecasting technology and research overseas. While Australia is said to have seen rapid improvements in recent years, decision-support tools from Canada, New Zealand the United Kingdom, United States of America, among other countries, which he visited as part of his scholarship-supported study tour, offer lessons in how local services could enhance their offerings to farmers.

Mr Schaefer concludes that weather forecasting has plenty more progress to make, both in longer-term, seasonal forecasting, as well as more localised predictions via micro meteorology, to help farmers make the most of decisions informed by weather.

“The weather is an essential part of planning daily operations and in the longer term can mean the difference between a profitable and unprofitable year,” he said.

“As a farmer I am also a weather forecaster, I refer to as much information as possible, from as many sources as I have available, then use this information to influence my decision making.

“Research needs to be targeted at seasonal forecasting. Investigations for this report have confirmed there is plenty of scope to continue to improve seasonal forecasting.

“To achieve this, researchers need to think outside the square, to be bold and innovative.

“On the opposite end of the scale to seasonal forecasting is the emerging science of micro meteorology.

“Currently any micrometeorology data that is collected is not normally available to farmers.

“As technology improves, with the advent of on-farm instrumentation and communications systems and satellite-derived, instantly retrievable information, it will become possible to map microclimate variations. This will be at time scales that are useful for input into businesses.”

Click here to listen to a GRDC Driving Agronomy interview with Robin Schaefer.

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Top country artist to party the night away in Jamberoo

AINT NOTHIN’ BUT A PARTY: Kiama resident and multi award winning country rock artist, Benn Gunn, is sure to entertain when he takes to the stage at Jamberoo Pub to release his latest album.
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MULTI AWARD winning country rock artist, Benn Gunn,will launch hislatest album Ain’t Nothin’ But a Partyat Jamberoo Pub on Saturday, October 10.

The Kiama resident, createdthealbum with U.S. hit songwriter Jason Patrick Mathews and acclaimed producer Bart Busch andsaid the album reflectshis own life journey over the last few years.

“On the first album I wrote pretty much all the songs, this is definitely a different approach,” Gunn said.

“I had the opportunity go to Nashville and work with some of my idols in the industry who produced some of my favourite albums.

“It was a completely new process which I loved.I think this is one or two notches above what I’ve done before.”

“It starts out talking about partying, bonfires anddrinkingbeer,then goes into a deeper side of things with songs likeWhat I need tonightwhichshows a more sensitive side,” he said.

“We shotthe film clip at the Sebel, so you will be able to see a bit of Kiama in it.”

Gunn spent his childhood travelling around rural Australia like many great countrymen before him, and once again he has foundinspiration in the outback.

“The last few years I’ve got into the B and S circuit and small rural festivals.Young outback communities, mainly in Victoria are what I’ve been focusing on,” he said.

“I’ve dedicated a lot of this album to those guys.”

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Newman resigns as Qld Premier

Campbell Newman has resigned but will remain as caretaker Premier until Queensland has an answer as to who will govern Qld.CAMPBELL Newman has tendered his resignation as Queensland Premier.
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But he will remain as caretaker Premier until Queensland has an answer as to who will govern the state.

It is a question which has been left open since the January 31 election.

A hour after Mr Newman tweeted his intention to visit the Governor, a statement was released.

“This morning I tended [sic] my resignation as Premier of Queensland to his Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, pending the appointment of a new Premier,” he said.

“In accordance with my constitutional duty, I have agreed it is my obligation to remain in office as caretaker Premier until that time.

“It is a duty I take very seriously and one I will continue to undertake to the best of my ability.”

Earlier, newly-elected Liberal National Party leader Lawrence Springborg said “delicate” discussions with the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs were continuing.

Mr Springborg, LNP president Bruce McIver, and Katter’s Australian Party founder Bob Katter were spotted meeting at Waterfront Place in Brisbane’s CBD but left when spotted by the media.

Katter said they would wait until seats had been declared before announcing their support.

The third crossbencher, long-term Independent Peter Wellington, has already thrown his support behind Labor which would give the party the numbers needed to govern.

While counting continues, the LNP is expected to win 42 seats and Labor, 44.

A spokesman for Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said they were still watching and waiting on the seat count.

The LNP is pushing for the state to remain in caretaker mode until all seats have been declared – including Ferny Grove, the result of which has already been disputed and is headed to the Court of Disputed Returns as soon as the count is finished.

The Palmer United candidate was discovered to be an undischarged bankrupt and therefore unable to stand for office.

It is understood to be the first time in modern political history that an election result has been disputed before the seat has been declared.

If the court declares the Palmer candidate’s votes affected on the seat’s result, it could declare it void, sparking a by-election.

That would be the only chance the LNP has to retain power. It would need to win the by-election and then win the support of the two Katter party MPs to form government.

The pair released a list of 21 priorities on Monday, among them, the right to move on fruit bats, an ethanol mandated percentage in fuel and an inland highway.

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission of Queensland said 10 seats had been declared already and electorates would continue to be progressively declared as the count was finalised.

That was not expected to happen on Tuesday.

On Monday, an ECQ spokesman said the count was not expected to be finished in all seats until the end of the week.

Caretaker provisions continue to remain in place.

A spokeswoman for Mr Springborg said Mr Newman’s actions were “consistent with what the LNP has said”.

“The LNP respects the office of the Governor and this is a matter for the Governor not politicians,” she said.

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CBH ‘war’ on inquiry agenda

RECENT public infighting among CBH directors was a focal point of questioning at last week’s Senate inquiry hearing into grain logistics.
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Western Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) grains committee chair John Snooke told the Committee concerns about the CBH board’s “public factional war” were escalating in WA.

“We are now constantly seeing a factional war playing out on the board and it is spilling over into the media,” he said.

“Just recently I have had numerous members call me who are very, very upset by this public factional war that is being played out.

“They are looking at their balance sheets, which are struggling, and they see this equity in CBH that they cannot realise.

“But the value of CBH at the moment would be in some decline.

“Without going into the nitty-gritty of each issue, that tells you of the broader frustration that is really developing in WA.”

PGA wants CBH privatisedMr Snooke said the PGA wanted to see a board that operated commercially, “like other companies in Australia”.

He said the PGA questions the way CBH is being managed and operated but “our members still identify that they have equity in the company”.

“Firstly, we would want to see CBH privatised so that it is operating by profit and loss, and not by legacy loyalty,” he said.

“That is where our members are getting very concerned. When we look back at the CBH board of the early 2000s, they were trying desperately to prepare the company for the changes that would inevitably occur in the industry.

“Our members are having problems when they do not see those changes. We are not seeing any rationalisation. We are not seeing CBH wanting to earn its business.

“It wants to retain its legacy loyalty by way of business rules.

“It is those things that are frustrating our members.”

WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert moved to clarify the board room scenario during her questioning of various witnesses, including ascertaining whether the infighting was due to differences of opinion over the co-op or corporate structure.

Mr Snooke said he did not believe that was the issue – which CBH chief executive officer Dr Andy Crane agreed with. “I do not think that at a board level that issue is being debated at all,” Mr Snooke said, noting that the current “ructions” on the CBH board were playing into a current climate of uncertainty in WA.

“Everyone is talking about it,” he said.

Dr Crane told the federal Senators, “You live in a political world, so I think you would fully understand”. He said the board situation resulted from “the machinations of a normal co-operative member based organisation”.

“We have nine grower directors elected to our board,” he said.

“We have 12 directors, and three are non-grower directors who bring external experience as well.

“Strong robust debates, I think, are healthy. It is often perceived as a downside of the co-operative, but I actually think it is a strength because what it is saying is that members are working out what they really want the business to do for them.

“Sometimes that spills out of the boardroom, but I do not see a negative in it and it is certainly nothing to do with – and I agree with John Snooke – a co-op corporate debate.

“Our board is very unified that the cooperative model is delivering the best for our growers.

“So this is just more passionate debate about what is right in a whole range of issues.”

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TONY BUTTERFIELD: Reserves get chance to atone


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THE Knights NSW Cup team and Wyong Roos have made the grand final! A local derby. Good stuff.

Congratulations should be extended to connections from both teams representing, as they are, the combined central and north coasts with distinction in the big show on Sunday afternoon in Sydney.

But getting to this point and winning are two vastly different challenges for the guys.

One is the marathon – three months of pre-season plus 26 exhaustive rounds.

The other is the one-off, live-the-moment performance of your life.

For Newcastle, bitter memories of last year’s substandard performance in the corresponding match against Penrith no doubt drives those still involved and hopefully challenges the new soldiers.

Coach Matt Lantry has his players on a roll from seventh place, but they were unconvincing in last week’s semi-final against Mounties.

They will need to lift their intensity or a well drilled, give-ya-nothin’ side like Wyong threaten to swamp the Knights late.

Wyong aligned recently with the Roosters. They missed the minor premiership this year only on points difference and are thriving in the expert hands of serial premiership-winning coach Rip Taylor, in part due to the additional resources now at his disposal. One of the form teams all year, they must start favourites.

I’ve a declared soft spot for the Knights but wish both clubs a hard but fair battle befitting the biggest day of the year. May the best team on the day win.

I’VE attempted to bring what I thought was my not insignificant knowledge of the game to bear picking winners in recent weeks. Hopeless. But surely among my fair-minded readers some will agree a portion of blame lay at the feet of a few very average calls (but you get that).

Meanwhile to week three.

The Roosters head to Brisbane tonight in a game many thought would be the grand final match-up next week.

Significantly, the Roosters, as only they can, have covered for major injury absences Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Right on cue, Kevin ‘‘Horrie’’ Hastings’ young bloke arrives on the seen like he’s old Horrie with a bad haircut.

Likewise, Boyd Cordner has risen to the occasion assuming the leadership mantel from Hargreaves, himself becoming the most damaging forward in the game.

I pick the Roosters.

Melbourne in Melbourne between 8pm and 9.30pm spells wet, slippery and cold. How well Johnathan Thurston’s boys adapt to the huge change in conditions will weigh heavily on this result.

They’re smart and well coached, these Cowboys. But if they get caught in the Storm’s wrestling web, their tempo and flow will be upset and their chances will ebb away.

My tips is the Storm.

Looked at another way, Queensland’s entire representation gone in 24 hours. No chance, right? What would I know?

I NOTE the lucky escape of a few young footballers earlier in the week and am not surprised at the procession of well intentioned investigations that will no doubt ensue. Thankfully the boys will recover and a lesson will be hard learned.

The police, the NRL integrity unit, the Souths club, the Fourth Estate and the league public at large will all make up their own minds as to what happened and what should be done about it.

From my vantage, the truth may be not much more than a group of young blokes preferred to stay at home, avoid the cost and any drama and enjoy each other’s company. A quiet get-together after a long, painful season.

Nothing to see here except legally supplied pain-killing pharmaceuticals might have been ingested beyond their prescribed limits. Reports have it that the two best mates were nearly dead (by misadventure) mates.

By nature young men of certain persuasions will experiment and take risks. It’s the reason many of this cohort succeed at modern sporting or business pursuits. This risk taking is as old as Adam and Eve.

So if one or more of our sons or daughters have needs beyond pain management, say, to enjoy a party sober, surrounded by drunken mates, he or she will find a way. Whether we all like it or not.

In response, punishments have and can be applied with limited and sometimes adverse effects. My view, as left-field as it may be, is pragmatism and honesty. This pretence that all drugs and all drug users are somehow bogey-man ‘‘bad’’ is outdated, ineffective and can sweep these problems under the carpet.

Why can’t people at risk of taking these cocktails feel comfortable asking qualified people for accurate information on dosages relative to body weight, allergies, energy drinks or whatever? At least their physician or chemist will be better informed about their patient.

Risk takers need information that is health-based, not dogma-based. It’s not condoning; it’s reality.

Rather than preaching the often-ignored social construct of right and wrong, this complex, divisive and sometimes tragic subject demands open discussion.

To positively influence choice, education-based solutions will prove far more sustainable and effective in the long run for our precious sons and daughters.

COUNTDOWN to the grand final . . .

1990: The Raiders make it two in a row, beating an emerging Penrith team 18-14. The Phil Gould-coached Panthers had been building for six years with a crop of youngsters from the local district (Alexander, Geyer, Cartwright, Izzard, Van der Voort and Fittler).

1991: Great though they were, the Raiders are later found to have breached the salary cap of $1.5million by $600,000 in 1990. At year’s end they would lose many stars and a grand final but keep their 1990 title, unlike Melbourne in 2007. In their first premiership since formation in ’67, youth combines with experience (Chris Mortimer, Peter Kelly, Paul Clarke and stalwart Royce Simmons) and the Panthers finally walk the district with their heads held high after beating Canberra 19-12.

1992: After only four years in the premiership race, Brisbane’s corporate-backed approach, ably supported by coach Wayne Bennett, a host of rep players and a whole state, crack it for their first premiership. Their opponents, the Dragons, reach the GF after playing two semi-finals in which no tries are scored (Newcastle 3-2, Illawarra 4-0). GF score: 28-8.

1993: The Broncos make it two in a row, again against the Brian Smith-coached St George, 14-6.

1994: Retiring captain of three premierships Mal Meninga goes out in a blaze of glory by flogging the Bulldogs 36-12. One of the modern game’s all-star line-ups includes Daley, Stuart, Clyde, Kevin Walters, Brett Mullins and Dave Furner – to name but a few.

1995: The 1994 runners-up would not be denied in ’95, beating Manly 17-4. With the drama of the Super League war heavy in the air, retiring legend Terry Lamb is determined to go out on a high note after 328 first-grade games. 1996: Manly coach Bob Fulton is determined to return a premiership after his central role in the Super League fiasco. Taking on St George, the Geoff Toovey-captained Sea Eagles make up for the disappointment of last year by winning 20-8 against a desperate St George team.

1997: The competition is split and it’s argued the stronger of the two leagues is the ARL. Regardless, players are tasked with playing whoever is in front of them. Ten years after their second coming to the NRL, Newcastle win in the dying seconds against arch enemies Manly 22-16. Along with ’75, my personal favourite!

1998: Despite finishing equal minor premiers with Brisbane, the Knights can’t progress beyond a preliminary final against the Bulldogs that ran 20 minutes of extra time. The leg-weary Bulldogs are no match for the mighty Broncos, losing 38-12 in a 20-team competition.

1999: It took the News Ltd-backed Melbourne Storm an astonishing three years to win their first premiership. In front of 108,000 fans at the new Olympic stadium, the Storm trail St George for most of the match before controversy strikes St George centre Jamie Ainscough after he takes out opposite Tony Martin. A penalty try and an extra kick in front win it 20-18.

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Live export opens Angus options

File photo.STRONG export demand for Angus heifers has provided an important marketing option for stud and commercial breeders in recent years.
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Angus Australia chief executive officer Peter Parnell says recent price rises in the domestic market may reduce the numbers available for live export trade in 2015, but in the longer term the trade would remain important.

“It helps buffer fluctuations in supply and demand, especially during poor seasons,” he said.

Dr Parnell says there are tremendous opportunities in China, with almost 30,000 Angus heifers certified for export there last year.

Strong demand is expected to continue in 2015, especially under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which will open up further markets.

“When they really get serious we are never going to be able to supply the numbers they need,” he said.

“We have seen the demand from their dairy industry with the importation of Holstein heifers for years but it is only just starting in the beef industry.

“Fortunately for us and Australian Angus breeders their breed of choice appears to be Angus, which comes down to the global recognition of the quality of Angus genetics.

“Across a range of climates where beef herds are expanding they are all choosing Angus.”

Kazakhstan and Russia have been major destinations for Angus heifers from 2007 to 2013 on the back of government incentives to develop their breeding herds.

However, falling oil prices have lead to a downturn in the Kazakhstan and Russian economies, making this funding more difficult. Political and trade restrictions in Russia were further obstacles.

Dr Parnell said it was unlikely this trade would resume in the foreseeable future.

Several large shipments of Angus bulls were exported to Russia last year, along with a very large shipment of feeder steers from southern Australia.

It was possible there would be further orders for feeder steers to Russia to utilise the feedlots and processing works they had built.

Dr Parnell said Angus Australia had provided support to the livestock agencies facilitating orders through pedigree certification of these breeding heifers.

Since 2007, more than 130,000 Angus heifers had been certified, in conjunction with the Australian Cattle Genetics Exports Agency.

Most of these heifers – about 90,000 – were exported by several shipping companies to a single enterprise in Russia, Miratorg.

Angus Australia has also provided support to several of these overseas herds by performance recording their cattle on Australian Angus Breedplan to create estimated breeding values on these animals.

Angus Australia staff had also assisted the Kazakhstan Angus Society develop its protocols and business model.

Dr Parnell said they would continue to work with these overseas customers of Australian Angus cattle.

“These people have chosen to source Angus cattle out of Australia rather than New Zealand, Canada or the United States so we see it as a good investment that we work with them so they will keep coming back here,” he said.

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Down to the wire for UDP

IT’S crunch time in the United Dairy Power auction, with almost all final bids now sitting in front of receiver PPB Advisory.
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The dairy processor fell into PPB’s hands in November, when Hong Kong businessman William Hui failed to stump up further capital to support the business. Mr Hui acquired the group for $70 million in February 2014.

Australia’s biggest dairy exporter, Murray Goulburn, is in the race but is understood not to be interested in all of the assets. Canadian heavyweight Saputo again stated its intent to pursue acquisitions in Australia at its quarterly earnings update last week.

Saputo snared Warrnambool Cheese and Butter last year after a fierce bidding war with Bega Cheese and Murray Goulburn. However, Saputo is understood to be sitting on the sidelines in the UDP process.

There has been some interest from offshore, but it is unclear if anyone is keen to bid for the entire business or just wants to pick off individual assets. The facilities come with a reputation for being old plants that Japan’s Lion could not get to work. The milk supply is valuable in a market fighting fiercely for farmers’ milk, but some players think they can win the suppliers over without needing to go through UDP.

Sources said if the plants do sell, they will probably get prices closer to asset values rather than multiples.

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Lamb exports reach $1.7b

AUSTRALIAN lamb exports in 2014 hit $1.7 billion, reports Meat and Livestock Australia – up 30 per cent from the previous record set in 2013. The rise was fuelled by record lamb slaughter, record lamb export volumes and the weakening $A.
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The US was the largest market, with the value up 31pc year-on-year, at $458 million, while as a region, the Middle East was the second largest destination, at $403 million dollars, up 22pc.

Within the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates ($117 million), Jordan ($78 million) and Bahrain ($75 million) were the three most valuable markets.

The value of lamb exports to China lifted 23pc year-on-year, to $220 million, while a significant increase (42pc) to Japan saw the 2014 value hit $88 million. Despite volumes being constrained by quota, the value of exports to the European Union increased 27pc, to $117 million.

Further contributing to the value of the Australian sheepmeat industry, mutton exports reached $870 million in 2014, up 38pc year-on-year, also assisted by greater volumes exported and the weaker $A. The most valuable individual markets were China ($207 million), followed by the US ($79.5 million) and Saudi Arabia ($78.7 million).

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Beef export hits record $7.79b value

UNPRECEDENTED Australian cattle slaughter underpinned record beef and veal export volumes in 2014, which helped the overall export value finish the year at a $7.79 billion – 36 per cent greater than the previous record set in 2013.
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Meat and Livestock Australia reports the United States alone accounted for $2.43 billion, up 138pc year-on-year, with almost 400,000 tonnes shipped weight exported to the US during the year. Assisting the strong market was the low point in US beef production, coupled with strong global demand and the weakening $A.

Japan was the second largest export market, both on a volume and value basis, with export receipts up 15pc year-on-year, to $1.65 billion, with over half (54pc) of the value accounted for by chilled boneless product, at $894 million.

The export value to Korea in 2014 finished the year 20pc higher than the year before, at $945 million, while to China, the value declined 9pc, to $660 million.

Export values to the Middle East ($374 million) increased 13pc year-on-year, despite a slight reduction in the volume exported, while Indonesia ($280 million) increased 45pc, assisted by a significant volume increase.

The EU export value jumped 38pc, to $279 million, coinciding with a slight increase in volume, and remained the most valuable large market on a dollar per kilogram basis, at $10.53/kg.

The forecast weaker $A will assist export values in 2015, yet the anticipated tighter supplies are likely to underpin an overall decline in export values this year.

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