THE Australian Farm Institute will launch its first review of Australia's agricultural trade performance at the rural think-tank's upcoming roundtable conference in Melbourne.
The review will contain detailed analysis of how Australian agriculture is faring compared with its major export competitors.
As well, the institute will unveil its new farm trade website portal which will give users access to a large database of Australian farm trade information broken down into commodity and export destinations.
The session on trade will kick off the conference on November 13 and 14 and will feature an address by Alan Oxley, a trade expert and previously Australia's ambassador to GATT in Geneva, who will discuss the implications for farmers from a raft of current and proposed free trade agreements with our Asian and Pacific neighbours.
The conference will also tackle the lacklustre gains in farm productivity in the past decade and seek to identify the new technologies or developments that are likely to make farmers more competitive in the next 10 years.
Speakers during this session will include Ben Miles, the head of cereals research for Syngenta, Professor James Rowe from the Sheep CRC, John Lloyd, the CEO of Horticulture Australia, and Michele Genini, general manager for Elanco Animal Health in Australia and NZ.
The impact of competition policy on farmers and agribusiness will be another major agenda topic and speakers will include Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and Su McClusky, a member of the Harper Competition Review panel.
The outcome from the current industry competition debate - which could affect the likes of powerful supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths - has the potential to fundamentally change the way Australian farmers sell their milk, meat and fruit and vegetables.
And the roundtable will also tackle the tricky question of what's been dubbed "digital agriculture". Low-cost digital sensors and "smart" machinery including drones are producing a flood of digital
information about farms which is helping take a lot of the guesswork out of management.
However, some of this data may be accessed by third parties including input suppliers, customers and governments for a range of different purposes. The critical question for producers is "who owns the data generated on my farm?"
Speakers at this session will include Dr David Henry, principal research scientist at the CSIRO who is leading the Sense-T project which aims to create a statewide digital monitoring system for Tasmanian farms.
Guest speaker at the conference dinner will be Gary Helou, managing director of Murray Goulburn Co-operative, Australia's largest dairy processor and a key player in a number of recent major issues including the supermarket milk wars and foreign ownership of farms and agribusinesses. For more information go to www.farminstitute.org.au or phone the institute on (02) 96901388.