ONE fifth of Australia's grain farmers plan to decrease their cropping area this year, with the majority making the decision due to rising input and production costs.
These statistics are from a GrainGrowers Limited survey, the results of which will be released to the public in the coming weeks.
With about 600 growers across Australia taking part, the survey identified the top three challenges to farming (apart from weather) as input costs and availability, farm labour and workforce and the costs and availability of machinery, equipment, repairs and parts.
In a dramatic shift from previous years, 78 per cent of growers said the most significant issue they were facing in running their business was input costs and availability while farm labour and workforce came in as the second biggest challenge at 29pc.
Twenty two per cent of respondents said they planned to decrease their cropping area, with 67pc attributing the decision to high production and input costs.
However this was weight up against 26pc of farmers who plan to increase their cropping area this year.
GrainGrowers Ltd chief executive Dave McKeon said supply chain disruptions over the past 12-18 months, coupled with two record-breaking cropping seasons across the country, had led to an increased demand for products, with both factors contributing to rising input and production costs.
"We had a record crop in Australia last year, and we are shaping up for another big crop this year, so it's putting a lot of demand on the limited availability of supply, which has already been disrupted due to other supply chain challenges," Mr McKeon said.
"Some short-term solutions include improving Australia's right to repair frameworks as that would help our farmers with access to machinery parts and allow growers, who are in the middle of seeding, for example, greater flexibility and options on how they might repair their machinery."
Based on member and industry input, GrainGrowers Ltd identified six key Federal election priorities to help advance Australia's grains industry, which include 'resilient input supply chains' as well as a 'responsive biosecurity system'.
Mr McKeon said when looking at specific election priorities, 72pc of respondents ranked the increase of domestic manufacturing of critical farm inputs as having a major impact, while 22pc said it would have a moderate impact.
"We have a clear range of asks from both sides of government around ensuring supply of critical inputs and increasing opportunities for domestic manufacturing of fertilisers, chemicals and other components," he said.
"We've been hearing from growers that it's been hard for them to get any sense of price discovery and transparency when they've been ordering their fertiliser.
"A lot of the crops are going in the ground at the moment, but if we think about urea application mid-season, there is an opportunity to improve price transparency and discovery to allow farmers to make informed decisions about their key inputs."
Mr McKeon said there was an opportunity for Australia to become a global leader in the supply, development and production of the next generation of green fertilisers, to assist sustainable grain production and reduce Australian farmers' carbon emissions.
"Forty per cent of emissions from grain farms come from Scope 3 emissions or emissions embedded in the production of fertiliser and of chemicals, so if we can reduce the emissions coming from fertiliser through the production end, we can reduce our onfarm emissions," Mr McKeon said.
Another issue highlighted by respondents was the need to maintain Australia's pest-free status, with a widespread incursion of Khapra beetle estimated to have the ability to cost Australia $15.5 billion over 20 years.
With the pandemic allowing a greater amount of resources to be focussed on the containers and goods coming into Australia, Mr McKeon said the resumption of domestic and international travel meant these resources would be spread over a greater range of risks, including international passengers coming into Australia.
As part of its Federal election asks for biosecurity, GrainGrowers requested ongoing Commonwealth contribution to agricultural R&D to match the R&D levies paid by growers, as well as well as utilising the sunsetting of agricultural levy legislation (programmed in 2023) to ensure agricultural industries can meet future challenges and that levy recipient bodies are responsive to the needs of levy payers.
"From a GrainGrowers perspective we're asking for a reset of Australia's biosecurity system to make sure we're keeping pace with the global risks and challenges in this Federal election we want to see the right effort allocation in the right areas for the grains industry, and that may require greater funding," Mr McKeon said.
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