Brendon Cant brendon at iinet.net.au
Wed Mar 22 13:04:54 EST 2006



WA's $3 billion grain industry might never be this strong again, according
to alarming predictions about dwindling productivity.


Returning this week from Brazil, Council of Grain Grower Organisations
(COGGO) Chairman and Bindi Bindi, WA grower, Bruce Piper, confirmed recent
reports that South America's developing agricultural sector was one of many
that could overtake Australia.


Responding to a report by agricultural think-tank, Australian Farm Institute
(AFI), suggesting agricultural R&D investment in China and Brazil was
outstripping Australia, he predicted lean times for productivity unless
growers took more initiative and privately funded R&D.


"AFI noted that agricultural corporations are investing most of their R&D
money in big developing economies such as China and Brazil, rather than
Australia," Mr Piper said.


"With that avenue gone, we are relying too heavily on public research, but
the report notes this investment has stayed steady for 15 years due to the
changing face of R&D.


"The plateau in public investment is not just an Australian phenomenon, but
a global trend caused, in part, by the complex issues surrounding
intellectual property.


"For example, New Zealand research institutes have recognised diminishing
public funds and are angling for more corporate funds through structural
change," Mr Piper said.


The AFI said more money was invested in agricultural R&D among the world's
developing nations than among developed economies.


According to Mr Piper, an outstanding history of agricultural R&D meant
Australian productivity was in good shape for now, but the impact of
investment downturn would be felt in 5 -10 years.


"With R&D outcomes generally following the initial investment by about eight
years, damage is slow to manifest. Growers can't afford to be complacent or
wait for external solutions."


"Public investment, via the Grains Research and Development Corporation, has
underpinned a crucial three per cent per annum increase in grain
productivity, but state and federal monies rightly target broader, rather
than regional, research needs.


"Commercial companies won't invest heavily in Australia until big soy and
maize markets in developing economies are exhausted, meaning we can't wait
on a multinational sugar daddy.


"About half WA's grain growers already contribute a voluntary levy to R&D
through COGGO, but that means a couple of thousand aren't pro-actively
choosing to invest.

"COGGO is a company, which means besides our own input, we can also form
commercial research partnerships with Government to leverage extra public
monies," Mr Piper said.


He added that public monies accessed though commercial partnerships could be
developed into valuable intellectual property that would deliver a dividend
to grower shareholders through royalties on new varieties.


More importantly, however, COGGO invested local money into local challenges
to build new industries, fortify existing industries and resurrect old ones
with unfulfilled potential.


COGGO commercialised an ascochyta blight resistant kabuli chickpea in 2005
that is expected to see the $700 per tonne WA crop spread across 30,000


Meanwhile, COGGO-affiliated companies have developed one of the WA south
coast's most prolific wheat varieties, GBA Sapphire, and during the past two
years, released four new canola varieties, with more in the pipeline.


Growers wanting to know more about COGGO and its private investment program
should contact COGGO CEO, Geoff Smith, Tel 08 9363 3400.




Authorised by COGGO and issued on its behalf by Brendon Cant & Associates,
Tel 08 9384 1122



Bruce Piper, COGGO Chairman, Mob 0429 087 304

Geoff Smith, COGGO CEO, Tel 08 9363 3400



Brendon Cant & Associates
Public Relations & Marketing 
Suite 5
4 Gugeri St
Claremont WA 6010
Tel 08 9384 1122



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