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TAS Country : September 15th 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011 Tasmanian Country 5 News Tasmanian dairy farmers' optimism soars KAROLIN MacGREGOR CONFIDENCE in the Tas- manian dairy industry is soaring, according to the latest Dairy Australia national survey. The 2011 Situation and Outlook report was re- leased on Monday and shows Tasmanian dairy farmers are the most confi- dent in the country about the industry's future. Across the country the report has revealed that 78 per cent of farmers are feeling positive about the future, up slightly com- pared with 72 per cent in the February survey. Dairy Australia man- ager of strategy and know- ledge Joanne Bills said seasonal variation con- tinues across the country and this was impacting on confidence levels in differ- ent regions. ''While seasonal con- ditions have become mostly favourable in the past few months, western Victoria and Gippsland farmers have received too much rain,'' Ms Bills said. Overall the 2011-2012 season has got off to a good start, with opening prices between 3-5 per cent higher than last year. ''However given the softening commodity prices and the strengthen- ing of the Australian dollar since the forecast was made in May, expectations are now at the lower end of the range,'' Ms Bills said. Dairy Australia's fore- cast for the whole year says farmgate milk prices should remain at between $5.10-$5.50/kg of milk solids or between 39-42 cents per litre. ''While this price out- look is down on final 2010-2011 payments, im- proved seasonal conditions and lowered feed costs should preserve profit margins, making the cur- rent season one of consoli- dation for most dairy far- mers,'' Ms Bills said. The update shows milk production across the country is forecast to in- crease by 1.5 per cent to 9.25 billion litres during the 2011-2012 season. Increasing concerns about the stability of the global financial system however is causing uncer- tainty. International dairy com- modity prices have soften- ed in recent months due to economic concerns, in- creasing supplies from New Zealand and Latin America and production growth in the United States and European Union. Whole milk powder prices have fallen by 16 per cent from their peak ear- lier this year, while skim milk powers prices have dropped by 8 per cent and butter by 10 per cent. Ms Bills said while the price drops were not insig- nificant, prices still re- mained historically high and price drops had been limited despite improve- ments in supply. ''In view of the global economic turmoil, the in- ternational dairy market has remained remarkably stable and could stay that way if demand from China, Asia and the Middle East continues to grow,'' she said. The threat of a another global financial crisis was a key challenge but China would continue to be an important driver of dairy demand in the outlook period. Asian adventure set to bear fruit VITAL MARKET: Cherries for sale in Hong Kong. KAROLIN MacGREGOR TASMANIAN fruit was showcased to thousands of visitors to Asia's biggest fruit and vegetable trade event, Asia Fruit Logistica, last week. Fruit growers and industry rep- resentatives from around Tasmania attended the event in Hong Kong, which included about 300 exhibitors from 60 counties. Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Lucy Gregg said Logistica was an ideal opportunity for Tasmanian fruit growers and exporters to meet face-to-face with importers and wholesalers in what are some of the state's most important export markets. ''It's absolutely critical to understand the different nuances of each market, and the best way to do that is actually to meet the importers and the buyers,'' Ms Gregg said. Asia is a vital market for Tasmanian stone fruits and cherries, and Ms Gregg said with production continuing to grow, maintaining and developing these key export markets was essential. ''There is no way the domestic market can handle those volumes of fruit at full production, so having these reliable export markets will be criti- cal,'' she said. Ms Gregg said that at this year's Fruit Logistica some of the major discussion points for Tasmanian fruit exporters were the difficult seasonal conditions and the impact of the high Australian dollar. ''Talking to people at the show, it's very obvious that it will be very difficult for us to compete on price alone with countries like Chile that are putting large volumes of fruit into the market,'' she said. ''We need a point of difference. ''The Asian market is very discern- ing and has a very discerning palate, so we really need to be focusing on putting high-quality fruit into those markets.'' Other issues discussed with con- sumers and importers at the event included updating packaging, labelling and reviewing preferred varieties. Mr Gregg said extreme conditions during the harvest season this year had resulted incherry exports falling from 1200 tonnes two years ago to 800 tonnes. However, she said that with increas- ing production and growing demand it was hoped they would be able to export about 1500 tonnes this season. Ms Gregg said strong demand from China, particularly for cherries, was also promising. She said while Tasmania did not yet have market access to China for cherries, trade talks were continuing and she hoped that market would open up in time for the forthcoming season. ''When you look at the population in China, the potential there is huge,'' Ms Gregg said. She said she would encourage all fruit growers to attend Fruit Logistica, which can provide a valuable insight into the requirements of the different markets. 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