African Swine Fever: The crisis continues
Once again, I am privileged to be travelling again, this time to Indonesia, Australia and China visiting farms and industries allied to farming., all of whom are having difficulties beyond their control.
Let me start by taking a look at Australia where there is a state of drought. We saw in the world's press the dramatic damage caused by storms in Queensland and the Northern Territory where livestock farmers have been hard pressed to keep their animals alive by buying in expensive fodder from more southerly regions, only to see many thousands of heads drowned by the flash flooding caused by the storms.
Whilst in New South Wales where irrigation is needed to produce crops, the cost of water has risen to such a level that farmers are having to cut back on production, and we are seeing vast acres of what should be productive land, instead lying dormant.
Rice production in these areas have long since been cut back in favour of the more profitable production of cotton. With areas reduced and crops lightened due to water shortage, there are significant knock-on effects being experienced.
This feed is important for millers making balanced rations for our genetically enhanced species, as it significant supply of protein. The feed is important to the stock farmers and because of the shortage some ginners are only supplying existing customers. Prices have seen dramatic increases but regardless of cost, the product is not available.
There is hope for the future as new cotton varieties are being developed with lower gossypol and cyclopropenoids present which will mean that higher levels of inclusion in diets will be achievable when the crop is available.
With a better harvest in Western Australia there is some feed available but looking at the much-reduced stockpiles in NSW these will be hard pressed to compensate for the shortfall.
However, going forward as water becomes more expensive the cost will prevent even the most efficient farmers from growing cotton. Their land will either have to remain uncropped, some growers will look towards more high earning crops such as vines but they take many years to come to fruition, possibly vegetable growing may be an option for some, with distant markets an expensive infra structure to get the products to consumers will be needed. Worldwide, the population demands inexpensive food.
Farmers worldwide are taking up new technologies and innovations to drive up production and costs down, as indeed do our partners in the milling industry to help keep costs low.
Moving on to my next country, China, we find another crisis this time for the pig industry where African Swine Fever has decimated the industry.
This terrible disease has spread across the entire country and as far as we can see has been spread by the movement of man. Working with Milling and Grain magazine and the millers in China, we hope that a good system of traceability can be established to track animal movements which will give a clear indication of where to expect further outbreaks through animal contact.
This should be achievable with the use of smartphones and apps, as almost every farmer has a smart phone. I am sure that, through help via the millers and the government, we can all try and bring this disease under control.
These two very different farming scenarios have to serve as a reminder that we are all dependent on the weather and other factors beyond our daily control; our food supplies should not be taken for granted but prepared and planned, or with a contingency plan that cannot continually rely on taking food from other areas.