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Ag News

Weekly Agribusiness News Recap

  • By: "Prime" Ag News
  • Jul 12, 2019

This article is bought to you by Wormhit

By Georgia Devenish - Agricultural Research Analyst at JLL. 

Australian Plant Proteins has announced it will begin construction of Australia's first major commercial plant protein extraction facility this month. The company recently secured investment from Melbourne-based Scalzo Foods to fund the $20 million fit-out of its plant at Horsham, Victoria. Commercial production is due to commence in the first quarter of 2020.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has confirmed it has closed an investigation into potato processor, McCain Foods, approximately 12 months after complaints from growers were received in relation to the company’s contract negotiations with potato suppliers in Tasmania and Victoria. An ACCC spokesperson said the culmination of the investigation had come after McCain made a number of commitments, including entering into multi-year contracts with as many growers as possible and locking in potato prices and volumes for each grower. Efforts will also be undertaken by the company to identify and amend any unfair terms before the 2019/20 season begins.

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Improving the identity and traceability of loose product items is the current focus of GS1 Australia. Account Director, Andrew Steele, speaking at the Hort Connections conference, said his company had been working with retails, including Woolworths and Coles supermarkets, to implement the GS1 data bar, where the Global Trade Item Number is linked back to the packhouse where that item has been sourced.

Looking further into the development sphere, Steele highlighted the exciting possibilities surrounding data embedded barcodes. In explaining their advantage he said, "it includes a lot of additional data, for example, not just that a product is a tray pack of meat, but it has variable weight, production date, best before date, either a batch or serial number, and whether it is a prime cut or not... There are a lot of opportunities in the industry and food waste is one of them."

Sunshine Sugar, a joint venture between the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative and the Manildra Group, has been investigating the use of innovative technology to capture water from sugar cane to bottle for human consumption. In partnership with AquaBotanical, a company based at Mildura, the company is hoping to harvest water at the same time juice is made. Mature sugar cane stalks contain more than 60 percent moisture, and the Australian technology of extracting the water is the first of its kind.

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As Sunshine Sugar's chief executive officer, Chris Connors, explains it, "The water gets squeezed out anyway as part of the sugar production process and then goes into an evaporator condenser system. So it's already there. We'll just polish it up a little bit... After the juice has been condensed, effectively we've got a water that is as pure as you can get." The equipment will be installed at Condong Mill with plans to have the other two mills and a bottling plant operational within three years. Sunshine Sugar estimates that the project will cost $5 million to $6 million over a five year period. The first batch of water from sugar cane is expected to be ready for bottling in September.

The Department of Agriculture has agreed to establish a levy payer register for the Australian grape and wine sector following a request from Wine Australia. The new levy payer register will improve engagement and communication between the industry body and grapegrowers and wine producers.

Demand from Asia is sending woodchip prices to record highs. Australia's largest processor and exporter of woodfibre, Midway Limited, expects demand will continue to grow and its investment activities reflects its confidence in the industry.

Midway recently acquired Softwood Logging Services, a harvest and haul business in Western Australia and late last year also announced it will invest $17 million into the timber plantations on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory. Midway's managing director, Tony Price, said, "over the last couple of years we've enjoyed a couple of significant price increases, with the current price for Tasmanian blue gum [woodchip] in the order of US$182 (AUD$260) per bone-dry tonne and that's the highest it's ever been." Mr Price said demand from China had now exceeded Japan, and some mills in Indonesia were emerging as valued customers as well.

According to a recent report published by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre, the opportunities for the Australian wheat and barley industries in Vietnam will continue to grow with forecasts suggesting the country is set to outstrip the rest of South East Asia with its rate of economic growth. Australia has established a leading position in supplying wheat to Vietnam, and is a preferred supplier both for bread and noodle manufacturing. The report also highlights forecast demand for feed wheat is also expected to grow, as aquaculture and animal industries continue to expand.

Research released by commodity market analyst, Mecardo, suggests that tighter supply of ovine protein in recent years, combined with increased overseas demand, has been behind the price gains observed for lamb and mutton at the saleyard. Since 2012, annual lamb exports have exceeded domestic Australian lamb consumption. A comparison between volumes in 2000 to 2018 shows that lamb exports from Australia have grown by 139 percent. This success in the export market while improving returns to producers has also made lamb less affordable at the retail level.

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Coles has offered new-season lamb forward contracts for August of $10 per kilogram dressed in a bid to secure supplies. The benchmark eastern trade lamb indicator (ESTLI) reached a record 919 cents per kilogram dressed on Monday, a rise of 26 cents in a week and 206 cents over the past year. Record prices and ongoing drought are continuing to squeeze lamb turn-off with the scarcity likely to reach its peak in August.

Global Agriculture
The latest 'Agricultural Outlook' from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been released. The report provides market projections for major agricultural commodities, biofuels and fish at national, regional and global levels over the 2019-2028 period. For nearly all commodities covered in the Outlook, real prices are projected to remain at or below current levels over the period, as productivity improvements continue to outpace demand growth. Agricultural production is expected to grow by 15 percent over the coming decade, while global agricultural land use is expected to be broadly flat.

One of the most significant investments to date in the vertical farming space has been made with AeroFarms, the New Jersey-based vertical farming group, raising $100 million in late-stage funding. The lead investor was INGKA Group, the parent company of furniture and meatball leader IKEA, an existing investor in the company. Other existing shareholders include ADM Capital, the Wheatsheaf Group, Mission Point Capital, China’s GSR Ventures and US asset management group AllianceBernstein. AeroFarms has now raised over $230 million in total.  

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Beyond all the media attention on insects in the human meal plan, there has been movement towards breeding insects as animal fodder - particularly fish food. Grown on cheap inputs, then crushed and formed into meal, they provide nutritional advantages - not on the final consumers plate but downstream in the supply chain.

Ynsect, a French firm, is currently using this process to produce products which are sold as pet food. As one of the most advanced mealworm-raising enterprises globally, the company's ambition lies in eventually targeting fish farms raising salmon, trout and sea bass. Ynsect's test facility in Burgundy has a current output of 30 tonnes of protein meal per month but later this year the company is planning to construct a full-scale commercial operation which will produce 1,500 tonnes per month.

Podcast of the Week
The podcast in the spotlight this week comes from RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness. Looking at the challenges that have been faced by McDonalds, one of the largest fast food chains globally, Tim Hunt and Wes Lefroy ask the question, 'What can McDonald’s teach us about a social licence to operate?'