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TAS Country : July 28th 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011 Tasmanian Country 11 Poppy outlook Poppy forecast looking fine KAROLIN MacGREGOR CONTROLLED: Poppy crops are grown by farmers who hold contracts with a manufacturing company and a licence from the Tasmanian Government. LIFE MEMBERS: Lyndley Chopping, Snow Thomas and Bill Casimaty. TASMANIAN poppy growers have been told their future looks bright thanks to a projected rise in demand for pain-relief drugs around the world. The good news came from Syngenta Crop Protection Australasia territory head Paul Luxton, who addressed the recent Tasmanian poppy productivity expo at Moriarty. During his presentation, Mr Luxton said about 80 per cent of the world's population did not have access to pain-relief drugs. ''New demand growth is going to be seen around the world,'' he said. Mr Luxton said an ageing population, combined with population growth in the Asia-Pacific region, would also help boost demand for alkaloid-based pain medications. But Mr Luxton also said Tasmania could face growing competition from other countries keen to get into poppy production. ''The competitiveness of the industry will depend on increasing productivity,'' he said. About 350 growers from across Tasmania attended the expo at the Radford Harvesting shed at Moriarty. Organised by Poppy Growers Tasmania, the expo is the first industry-wide event to be held for decades. PGT chief executive Keith Rice said organisers were thrilled with the attendance and hoped growers had received some useful information that would help them to boost their productivity. Power pricing James Curren, a senior water consultant with Macquarie Franklin, gave growers an outline of the new contestable electricity pricing. Mr Curren told farmers that any businesses, including farms which used between 50-150Mw hours of electricity or spent between $10,000 to $30,000 a year, would soon be eligible for contestable pricing negotiations. Those who did not fall into one of the eligible categories, however, would remain retail customers. Mr Curren said it was important that anyone looking at contestable electricity considered all offers carefully. To help improve efficiency and cuts costs, Mr Curren said there were some simple steps that growers could take when it came to irrigation. Ensuring the equipment on farm was the most suitable for each irrigation system was vital. Mr Curren said pump efficiency was also a factor that was sometimes overlooked, but it could have a big impact on irrigation costs. Minimum efficiency standards for pumps were introduced by the Federal Government in 2006. Mr Curren said this meant some older pump infrastructure might not be as efficient as newer equipment. An efficiency of 70 per cent at the duty point was ideal, while 80 per cent was extremely good. A highlight of the expo was the presentation of the first four life membership to PGT. They were presented to four former PGT presidents: Snow Thomas, who was president from 1971-1977; Bill Casimaty (1977-1986); Wayne Smith (1986-2001); and Lyndley Chopping (2001-2009). Mr Thomas said in the very early years, when talk of establishing a poppy industry in Australia was beginning, it was a decision by the Victorian Government to not support it that resulted in Tasmania becoming the industry frontrunner. ''We got an industry that Victoria didn't want through ignorance,'' he said. Inspector Ian Lindsay, from the Tasmania Police Poppy Taskforce, told expo participants that one of the keys to Tasmania's low level of poppy capsule theft was team work between the taskforce and growers. Insp Lindsay said just 1473 poppy capsules were stolen across the state last season. This was a low number, especially given the increased crop area. ''I'd like to see us working together on a partnership basis going forward,'' he said. Insp Lindsay said farmers were often in the best position to provide detailed information about crop theft which could lead to investigation and prosecution. Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research controlled traffic farming researcher John McPhee also gave the expo a rundown on the latest project findings. He said plans by the State Government to expand the number of Continuously Operating Reference Stations would improve access to the system. Many farmers across the state, however, were not fully using their existing global positioning infrastructure on the farm. ''There's a hell of a lot of people that use it to drive a straight line, but you're are hardly scratching the surface of what the systems can do,'' he said. Mr McPhee said guidance systems were vital to successfully implement and use controlled traffic farming. ''Basically controlled traffic is just about driving in the same place all the time so you don't stuff up your soils, but in reality it's not quite that simple,'' he said. Mr McPhee said farm layout played a vital role in getting the right drainage off paddocks. So far results from the initial controlled traffic projects and other projects across the globe showed controlled traffic systems should result in lower energy usage, more efficient water use and improved yields. They could also facilitate the use of more advanced farming techniques. But Mr McPhee said the most important benefit of controlled traffic was improved soils. When grown well, poppies can yield about 2.5 tonnes per hectare. There are, on average, 800 growers cultivating about 25,000ha of poppies annually in Tasmania.
July 21st 2011
August 4th 2011