THE global grains industry converged on Singapore last week, with the running of both the Australian Grains Industry Conference and the Global Grains conference.
I was lucky enough to attend both of these events and provided some fascinating food for thought in terms of the future development of the Australian grains sector.
Firstly – the opportunities into Asia are huge. We’ve probably become a little desensitised after the ad infinitum repetitions of just what a big deal Asia is going to be for us over the next 50 years, but it's all true – and then some.
The scope of what is happening in China is off the charts and India is the sleeping giant that will soon present similar opportunities.
However, lest we think it’s a smorgasbord all to ourselves just because of geographic proximity, another key message from the week was that the rest of the world is just as fixated on these opportunities as us, and all have some advantages over Australia.
Traditional exporters such as the US and Canada have strong technical services programs, high protein, high quality wheat and market preference in the baking sector in Asia, which prefers fluffy, sweet North American style "bread".
New era exporters such as the Black Sea nations and even India are lower cost producers with an ever improving supply chain and will compete hard for market share in price conscious markets.
Even South American producers are working to find their way into Asia, so it is going to be an incredibly competitive place to do business.
As part of that, Australia needs to know what its grain is being used for in order to provide a product best suited to end-user needs.
From the production side here in Australia, quality has always meant the old AWB matrix, high protein, low screenings and moisture.
But it’s not always about the highest protein lines - other quality characteristics such as gluten levels and elasticity are also important.
Breeders need to be closely connected to these desires from the international production sector.
That is a two-way street – equally Australia needs to ramp up its technical service sector to ensure customers know how to best use our wheat.
Say what you will of the single desk, it did provide a strong platform for customer service.
Now it is being done on an ad hoc basis, while hungry US and Canadian marketers run a slick campaign advertising the benefits of using North American grain.
The take-home messages for me out of the conferences were that the opportunities are there, but we’ll have to work hard for them.