1200. Hon RICK MAZZA to the Minister for Agriculture and Food:
I refer to the 22 November Countryman
article, ''Argentina grain study serves up key advice'', that
reports that wheat exports from Argentina could double in the next decade.
increasing wheat production in countries such as Argentina, Russia and Ukraine,
what is the government doing to help assist our farmers increase their yields
and market their product in this advancing global market?
(2) Is the government monitoring the
grain industry in Argentina; and, if so, how; and, if not, why not?
(3) Does the
minister agree that more intelligence is needed into the specific
characteristics of Australian wheat being sought in its main markets?
ALANNAH MacTIERNAN replied:
thank the member for the question, and I can see from his pile of questions
today that he has been closely reading Countryman. The member would be
aware, no doubt, because I know he has been present at many presentations that
I have given, and I am sure he has read the media release that I put out on 2 May
some six months ago, in which I very expressly talk about the risk to WA wheat
farmers, not only from the Black Sea, which is generally talked about, but also
from Argentina. We have been very mindful of that. Indeed at that time, in this
same media release, I outlined the additional $24 million that we were putting
into the budget for grains research. In part, that was a recognition of that
competitive pressure that our farmers were facing. We absolutely know about it
and we are on the case.
The Australian Export Grain
Innovation Centre, an absolutely fantastic outfit, is working very closely on
this issue It has identified what we need to do to improve our product to move
up the value chain in Asia, and new demand that is merging in Asia,
particularly in the cake and biscuit area as food choices change in Asia. I will
use this opportunity to say—I am glad the member has raised it—that
WA is overwhelmingly an export industry in our grains; the eastern states are
not. We are fighting a constant battle with the Grains Research and Development
Corporation to ensure that enough money is being spent in Western Australia on
these sorts of issues that are mostly relevant to our farmers. I am deeply
concerned to learn that this very professional outfit, AEGIC, might indeed be
under some sort of threat from GRDC funding. I am hoping it is not, but I hope
that we can get unity across this chamber to make sure that that outfit, which
is absolutely focused on these issues, will continue that very excellent work.