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Newsletter: Qld Report

By Jodie Redcliffe, 2013 Scholar and Chair

December 2017

Merry Christmas from Queensland and welcome to the new crop of 2018 Qld Scholars including Steve Grist (microherbs), Alison Larard (succession planning), Sonia Comiskey (central beef), Stewart Borg (tropical feedlotting) and Colin Burnett (northern beef).

2017 Scholar updates:

Glenn Wormald: I completed three weeks travel in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras and USA looking at prawn larvae quality improvement and development in nursery systems. I am continuing to develop production protocols for the Pacific Reef Fisheries hatchery nursery, with very encouraging results. I was pleased to present my Nuffield story to the Australian Prawn Farmers Association in September and am very excited to be in Canada with Canadian Nuffield scholar Kristina Polziehn. My partner and I are expecting our baby girl to be born in early December. I have five weeks Nuffield travel left, in Canada, Vietnam, Thailand and Mexico, back in Australia early April.

Matt Fealy: It’s summer, which to most Australians means late afternoon BBQ’s, cricket and of course, mangoes. To me, it means we dive deep into our harvest. A warm winter and mild spring has resulted in poor yields for us at Blue Sky Produce but some growing regions are achieving an average harvest. Wild storms including hail are causing some losses in the region. Our late season varieties should keep us busy well into February before we cross over into avocado season. Labour is in a comfortable steady supply this year after two seasons of uncertainty during the great “backpacker tax” debacle. I have approximately four more weeks of travel to complete, and I’m planning on visiting Israel, Holland Japan and possibly USA again.

A number of recent Scholars have been in the news. Nigel Corish (Qld Vice Chair and 2014 Sch) and Adam McVeigh (2015 Sch) both spoke at the ABARES Regional Outlook Conference in Toowoomba on October 11. According to my poultry source (who also spoke) both performed to excellent standard!

In the media:

Queensland Country Life featured Fred Appleton’s (2015 Sch) change to organic beef a few weeks ago (LINK HERE)

Alison Larard was interviewed about what she hopes to do with her 2018 Nuffield Scholarship (LINK HERE)

Trent De Paoli (2013 Sch) recently launched another product to add to his impressive value-adding side of his business: Muchas Gazpacho. Trent also had the Queensland Opposition Leader stop into his place during the election campaign, and you can view the report from Seven News (LINK HERE)

Around the state:

We have been having cooler than usual weather through November, and above average rain in north-western parts of the state. However, it has been drier than usual in parts of the southeast and central interior. A thunderstorm with heavy rain produced 80mm of rain in one hour at Wamuran on 29 Nov, making it the wettest November day on record.

The 2017 sugar season has once again provided many challenges in the harvest and transport of the sugar cane crop. The Mackay sugar crop estimate for the 2017 season is currently at 5 million tonnes, down some 600,000 tonnes from the 2016 season. More than 150mm of rain has been recorded in the last six weeks making paddock conditions wet and reducing sugar quality. The next ten days will finish the 2017 harvest provided the weather is kind allowing for the crop removal. On a positive note the 2018 crop prospects are good with the higher than average spring rainfall allowing the sugar crop to establish well.

It was a very dry winter in the south-west with only 40mm of rain between June-September. There has been good rain since the start of October with 120mm in October and 70mm in November. The winter crops were better than expected with the dry conditions, with wheat yielding over 2 tonnes per ha. Chickpeas were disappointing only yielding 0.8 tonnes per ha. The prices for wheat remained fairly strong over the harvest period especially for feed wheat which was over $300 per tonne on farm. The price for prime hard wheat was also strong with prices around $350 per tonne delivered Brisbane. The price for chickpeas is very volatile at the moment with prices ranging from $730 to $800 per tonne. This is still a very strong historical price but it seems the demand from India has weakened. It has been a great start to the season for cotton. It is still dry on the Darling Downs but all other cotton growing regions are off to a great start. The rain in October and November has been perfect for the crops to get established. The price for cotton is strong at the moment around $540 per bale.

The northern beef market has continued to improve in recent weeks, with the good rains in the central region (St George had between 65 and 195mm in October) and as mentioned earlier, well above average in the northwest for November. Many producers are trying to rebuild stocks with the bounce back in the paddocks. The Gracemere sales reported prices of 390c to 398c for heifers and steers to 260kg, with heavy steers and heifers in the range 280c to 317c (QCL 7th Nov). The Roma sale on Nov 28th reported good runs of well-bred cattle and steady supply of young steers and heifers. Some indicative prices were light restocker yearling steers averaging 383c and medium weight feeder heifers and steers averaging 303c to 325c.

Dates for 2018

We are looking to hold our AGM on Friday, 4 May, just prior to Beef Australia being held in Rockhampton 6-12 May. This event is only held every three years, and is a great opportunity for Nuffield to engage with our investors and the beef industry – such an important part of Qld agriculture.

2018 will be our inaugural ‘Scholars Dinner’ which will be an opportunity for all Scholars to catch up and strengthen the Qld network, including with investors. This Scholars Dinner will be held at the beginning of Ekka Week, Friday 10th August. Hopefully it will coincide with scholars coming into Brisbane to celebrate agriculture at the Ekka.

On behalf of all Queensland Scholars, Wayne and I wish you all health and happiness for the festive season. May the weather be kind and the company good.

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