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TAS Country : December 2nd 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010 Tasmanian Country 3 News $100m loan ranger plan The fact that sets Tasmanian agriculture apart is that this sector is perhaps Tasmania's greatest asset.' Continued Page 12 TASMANIAN farmers have proposed a $100 million HECS-style loan scheme to the State Government to enable them to invest in long-term projects, includ- ing food-bowl irrigation infrastructure. The investment fund is a key plank of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association's 2011 Budget submission. It makes proposals in six key areas, but with particular reference to the opportunities and conse- quences of the $400 million irri- gation investment program. The keystone of the TFGA sub- mission is facilitating farmers' ac- cess to loans and credit to make the most of opportunities in innovation and infrastructure improvements, such as irrigation. ''Many farmers are under enor- mous financial strain due to poor seasons in the recent past, poor commodity prices, the high Aust- ralian dollar, increasing input and compliance costs, the uncertain fu- ture of various industries and mar- kets and tighter lending require- ments by the banks,'' TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said yesterday. ''The particular challenge of financing expansion of farming ac- tivities, and especially horticulture and other perennial agriculture, is the substantial time gap between planting and the first commercial harvest, which can be anywhere between five and 10 years. ''Banks are reluctant to lend for these purposes when the first cash flow is so distant. Farm enterprises commonly do not generate suf- ficient cash flow from other activi- ties, such as sheep grazing, to meet the obligations of substantial loans. ''Nor are farmers often comfort- able with -- or, in some cases, able to offer -- mortgages over the land. ''Equity investors, on the other hand, are reluctant to commit with- out ownership of the underlying land, which landowners are not unreasonably reluctant to grant. ''Most landowners are therefore able only to invest in small units, hoping to expand incrementally as cash flow builds. The result is that the total industry in Tasmania expands very slowly, by international comparison.'' The TFGA has proposed a Government-sponsored loan fund, along the lines outlined by Professor Jonathan West of the Australian Innovation Research Centre. This would be an income or profit- contingent loan scheme, in which the Government created a self- replenishing pool of funds, repaid by landowners on successful matu- ration of the vines or trees. It is similar in operation to the HECS scheme for tertiary students: you repay when you can better afford it. ''The interest rate should be set low, to cover a low anticipated default rate,'' Ms Davis said. TOP CROP: Henrietta and Lauran Damen in a field of wheat at their Forth farm. Picture: CHRIS KIDD Graingrowers opt for flour power JENNIFER CRAWLEY FORTH farmers Lauran and Henrietta Damen are almost ready to reap their first full harvest of wheat, which will be ground into flour and made into bread by the Callington Mill at Oatlands. Lauran said the harvest of spelt, oats and wheat was expected to take place in January and the amount they produce would depend on the weather. He is excited about the sustainability of growing his own wheat to make flour and bread. ''It's very good that we have a closed loop for Tasmania,'' Lauran said. ''Most bread has mainland grain in it.''A farm employee bought a loaf at the Oatlands Companion Bakery and took it to the Forth farm. It was made from a small shipment of grain from the Damens' property. ''We had some bread made from our flour and it tasted good,'' Lauran said'' The Damens are from Holland and have been farming in Tasmania for nine years. In Holland, Lauran, 49, grew grain and sugarbeet and worked as a contractor. The couple looked around the world for a place to live and decided Tasmania was the place they liked the most. ''A lot of farmers from Holland emigrate to Canada but in terms of the climate, I wasn't going to take a step backwards,'' Lauran said. The couple also grows one of the state's top pyrethrum crops on their 237ha farm. The historic Callington Mill was officially opened last Sunday by the Governor of Tasmania Peter Underwood. The mill is the most recognisable landmark in Oatlands, and can be seen from the Midland Highway. It is attracting large numbers of tourists to the regional town and the sails that propel giant stones to grind wheat make quite a sight. Local farmers from the Southern Midlands and the north of the state are supplying wheat to the mill. ''The mill represents a remarkable opportunity for grain growers to have their wheat turned into flour,'' Callington's Martin Farley said. Growers in pain as rains kill grain GRAIN growers are seeking an urgent meeting with Federal Agriculture Min- ister Joe Ludwig over the looming crisis facing the nation's grain harvest. Rain bands extending from Queens- land to Victoria were expected to cause huge damage to cereal crops across the eastern grain belt, potentially costing the industry hundreds of millions of dollars in milling-quality grain downgraded to stockfeed. ''We have a natural disaster develop- ing at the moment,'' said NSW Farmers Association grain committee chairman Mark Hoskinson. ''Queensland already had a lot of downgraded grain. This is a cancer creeping south.'' The NSWFA grains committee held a teleconference on Tuesday to discuss growers' plight. Mr Hoskinson said NSWFA presi- dent Charles Armstrong would invite Mr Ludwig to view first-hand the situation facing farmers and hopefully put proposals to him. He said growers were worried weather-damaged grain would be sold at ''firesale'' levels. ''There is no buyer obliged to buy weather-damaged grain any more with the demise of the single desk,'' Mr Hoskinson said. But an AWB spokesman said there was no difficulty selling feed grain internationally. He said South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam were estimated to need four to five million tonnes of feed-wheat between them. The spokes- man said China might need about two million tonnes of feed grain. The damaging rain may lift world prices of milling grain. The Common- wealth Bank's commodities research arm said world markets were watching what effect the rain would have on milling-wheat supplies. Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said his country might import grain to keep domestic prices low. Global wheat prices skyrocketed in August after Russia announced an export ban following the hottest sum- mer on record and a severe drought. The Weekly Times
November 25th 2010
December 9th 2010