Shall we kill the hay exports or the cows?

Via the ABC comes another little microcosm of the mismanagement of Australia’s collapsing borders:

Exporters are hitting back at calls for the Federal Government to seize hay supplies destined for Japan and China, saying it will bring about the end of a $500 million industry.

Many drought-stricken farmers have taken to social media calling for a halt to hay exports as demand on domestic supplies reach unprecedented levels.

CEO of the Australian Fodder Industry Association, John McKew, said there has been an extraordinary turnaround in demand as an oversupply in 2017 turned into a shortage.

“We’ve hit this situation where demand has just gone unbelievably strong for fodder products,” he said.

“There’s always going to be hay in the system, but in terms of what’s available commercially, we’re about as low as you’d want to go.”

‘Oversimplification’ that could kill industry

With almost 1.2 million tonnes exported, 2017 was a record year for the industry, but Mr McKew said exports represent 10 to 15 per cent of the total supply.

He said the export industry has taken three decades to build, and that major competitors in north America are ready to step in should Australian exports stumble.

“The relationships that have taken this long to build, you cannot just turn export markets on and off, so if we were to turn our export fodder industry off at anytime, it’s gone — we won’t get it back,” Mr McKew said.

Mr McKew said a seizure of hay exports now would mean the collapse of the domestic hay market once the drought finally breaks and supplies return to a significant surplus.

“We get to the stage where we’ve got a lot of stock available in the industry, what do we do with that?”

“If we use the 2017 figures, that’s 1.2 metric tonnes extra fodder into the domestic market in a good year … the prices will go down even further and we’ll have fodder growers who are going to be in desperate situations,” he said.

Social media and drought stoke fears of shortage

Northern Victorian hay grower, Luke Felmingham, said calls for a seizure of hay exports are short-sighted and “farcical”.

“It’s a bit of a storm in a tea cup, people taking a shot at an industry that’s been around for a very long time,” he said.

“It’s people forming an opinion before they have the information.”

Sentiments about hay exports seen on social media group include comments like “it should not be being exported, it should be sent to our farmers! Another example of our government looking after other countries before our own!”

But Mr Felmingham said while most farmers he has spoken to understand the need for a strong hay export industry, a minority opposed to it are finding a strong voice on social media.

“It’s hurting all the east coast which is really exhausting hay supplies, which is making a lot of people nervy and a lot of people upset as well,” he said.

Mr Felmingham said hay growers have their own contractual commitments and are being unfairly singled out.

“A lot of hay growers and suppliers are farmers too, they have their own stock, they want to be able to meet their market requirements, whether it be domestically supplying the dairy farmer up the road for the next six months, or the exports supplying their contacts.”

An idea worth exploring, says hay broker

Managing Director of Haylink Marketing and Logistics in South Australia, Alister Turner, said with new crops of hay still growing, export supplies should be used to help farmers in the short term.

“It’s something we’d have to manage very carefully because to alleviate a short-term domestic crisis, we in no way want to damage our very valuable and established export hay industry,” Mr Turner said.

“It’s a little frustrating to see carryover of contracts of export hay still sitting in sheds with the new crops almost upon us, when we desperately need hay for our drought regions in particular, and our dairy farms.”

While Mr Turner said a seizure of export supplies would be a draconian measure, exporters and governments need to come to some sort of an agreement.

“The exporters don’t seem to be interested and obviously they have their overseas contracts and things they’ve got to fill … but if we could work together to redirect some of the supply and help short term crisis that would be an ideal situation,” he said.

“Hopefully the new season will provide enough tonnage for us all, but I still think at this point we haven’t had any relief from the drought and it is worsening, so going forward we’re going to ask the exporters to help out.”

The Federal Government would be required to declare a state of emergency in order to seize any export hay supplies.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the government has no plan for the forced compulsory acquisition of hay.

I don’t want to see the exports collapse. But, likewise, who could have known that Australian farmers would need extra hay from time-to-time? I mean, jeez, droughts are so rare in Australia.

The entire management of Australian resources from milk powder to gas is now managed exclusively for the benefit of North Asian consumers while Australians suffer.

This is not what exports markets are supposed to do for a country.

Houses and Holes
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  1. Wait, I know! To support the export market, increase supply available. China is our friend.

    To support the cattle farmers, import US hay. USA is our most important ally.

    To cover the difference in cost, introduce a special one-time levy on all Australians to chip in during a natural disaster called drought.

  2. I know this is probably the wrong place for this- but is anyone who watched and understood the Denise Brailey video the other day able to explain some of its detail to me please? There is a section where she seems to talk about australian housing debt being securitised and sold with a high rating to US investors, while behind the scenes banks are extending new lines of credit to underwater customers to help them make the payments, preserve the rating, while driving them further into debt. Is all this true? If so, what is the scale of it? What part of the market are we talking about here and how widespread is it?

    • Well, nationalizing assets seems to be treating the symptom not the cause.

      Put simply, farmers are being impacted by drought which has caused a reduction in food available for farm animals.

      Drought in Australia is inevitable and so forward planning should have been implemented. Nationalising the export of hay will treat the symptom (feed animals due to shortage of supply). Therefore next time there is drought there is no hay export industry to lean on, what do we nationalise next?

      Now possibly some forward planning into drought management can take place as people feel the impacts of not planning for the inevitable.

      • There is a BIG difference between nationalising assets and pursuing national self interest…. they are always welcome to grow the hay, but in times of national self interest they can’t sell it overseas – Australians interests must be served first.

        Nothing to do with communism 🤨

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      “why is it that our society has become defenceless against the Globalist neoliberal arguements”

      Its Because the post politics Career prospects of our elected “Representatives” are exponentially increased when they constantly shill for Neoliberal Globalised Plutocracy.
      The Labor leadership is infected with these same Ambitious traitors and sell outs as the LNPs leadership is.

      • You certainly got closer to the matter than Labrythn who appears to be lost in the semantics of socialism.

    • The need for Economic nationalism strikes again…. why is it that our society has become defenceless against the Globalist neoliberal arguements…. […]

      Because you’re too concerned about whether the latest round of immigrants has the right imaginary friend or “culture” to focus on the local born arseholes running the show eagerly selling out the country for their thirty pieces of silver.

      • You unicellular ponce.

        Unlike your mono-dimensional thinking it’s possible to simultaneously see both a problem with immigration and a problem with our leadership and political system.

        Furthermore, since I am not religiously bound by your secular vows to never examine the influence of race and culture, I can consider the possibility that immigration and the composition of that immigration may be contributing to the political instability.

        I am also free to speculate that immigration and the composition of that immigration may be one of the factors enabling those same corrupt arseholes of which you speak, to ransack the nation, as the broader public is distracted by the deliberately imported cultural and ethnic divisions, along with the economic burdens they represent.

        Just a thought you moralising condescending wnaker.

      • Just a thought you moralising condescending wnaker.

        Stones, glass houses, etc.

        Boring insults are boring. If you’re going to do nothing more than insults, at least try to make them interesting or entertaining.

  3. Hard to feel sorry for farmers when the farmers probably refuse to demand: jail for wage theft, immigration cuts (at least in non-farming professions), 200 km/h railways, faster internet in rural areas (ironic), that the electricity grid be nationalised, UBI (would be handy in the current drought).

    The farmers can not even get self-interest right.

    • Yeh, I have family directly impacted at the center of this drought but its hard to feel sorry for people who vote for governments that have been outright hostile to industries I work in, or towards workers in general. Protectionists should never have been in a political marriage with the sort of people who say “The invisible hand of the market..”

      I’d dearly like to know whether any farmers getting uppity about live export ban are themselves calling for hay export ban.

  4. What if… this isn’t really a drought?

    What if… this is just the new normal?

    What if… we ain’t seen nothin’ yet?

    But yeah, as long as North Asia is kept happy.

    • The reason the drought is so severe is because of the record US beef price 12-18 months ago. Farmers overstocked to try and cash in, and the gamble didn’t pay off. Now they are trying to subsidise their costs at some other farmers expence. Are these cattle farmers saying that hay farmers should receive a subsidy to keep a national stockpile for times of drought! Hell no! The season before last was above average, they should not be in the hole so quickly if they had realistic stocking rates based on their existing feed supply. You won’t see them supporting a minimum hay price to support that industry in times of excess.

  5. So farmer’s want to stop hay exports to save the cattle that they are going to export to the highest bidder. 😲

    • Indeed. Lots of talk about the “national interest’ with no actual definition of what that interest is. Cattle farmers are struggling at the moment while hay farmers sound like they have invested a lot of time and effort into building up an export market which supplies them with a decent income when there is a surplus of domestic hay.

  6. Hang on a minute, are you telling me that we grow grass, dry it put it in shipping containers to China and people make profit from it? Are you kidding me? It’s dried grass, the sh!t grows on the side of the road with no assistance whatsoever. How is profitably exporting hay even possible?! “Melamine-free hay”?

    • We also import all our pet fish food flakes from China and Korea. Hard to believe it’s profitable shipping such a bulky good across the ocean. But then again we are used to crazy shipping prices here in Australia where it’s cheaper to ship goods from the USA to Australia than from syd to melb.

    • Hay is generally used in winter, not for insurance in droughts. You understock your property then use some land for hay. That way you insure yourself and sell the excess to NH dairy producers. If you’re consistecy allows you to get a premium then you can dedicate more land and actually make money. Normally good years equal crud local price. So long term contracts are the only thing that makes it viable.

      • Yes. And as I understand it we are in a winter drought which is quite unusual. Usually they’re in summer.

        Perhaps the climate is changing or something, i dunno…

  7. Shouldn’t the farmers in known drought areas be relying on the hay supplies they have put away to carry them through the drought years? Simple concept but relying on government handouts is the preferred option for most.
    The “dumb son syndrome” is alive and well in Australian farming. Generations of sending the “smart” sons off to find careers away from the farm have diluted the gene pool to a super low level. Most of them have NFI.

    • Farmers I know always destock ahead of time if/when they see it coming. They always put what hay or grain they can away, but it’s also money sitting in the shed & if the bank owns you, who’s going to win? How far ahead can you plan & carry for? Supplies & stock.

      Your second point might have some truth to it, but then again a notable amount go to private schools (some AG schools) & come back all Lib/Nat’ed up (never the same)! But most have NFI? Is that an informed opinion or one from Newtown?

      • Paying the banking debts is allways one of the biggest challenges our farmers face. They tend to take risks when their in a debt trap.

      • Some would & some would be forced to eat their cake for the sake of keeping the Wolves at bay & hope to keep their land so they can still eat off it at least. It’ll be interesting to see how many IPer’s run risks & ride their account into the ground & how many keep their heads when under pressure & back out calmly. For farmers it’s usually their only line of business they know, & there’s often a generational pride & sweat, so there’s possibly more commitment/pressure?

  8. “Managing Director of Haylink Marketing and Logistics in South Australia, Alister Turner, said…”

    All that hay just sitting there when I could be trucking it somewhere making a small fortune in the name of drought relief! It’s inhumane and un-Australian!

    Call my cynical, but he’s not the best person to ask regarding hay stocks. All those $14k transport grants aren’t going to spend themselves, you know.

  9. Maybe we should compel the sugar refiners and Bundabeg to stop using molasses so we can use it to feed the cows

  10. Yah, But when were we ever really a country? AFAIK We don’t even have a bill of rights. Whatever national identity was germinating is as good as gone, actively watered down, sold out & everyone pulling for themselves! Just look at some of the comments above. We’re a purposefully ignorant outpost that’s always been passed around like a dirty bong for others to suck dry. It only remains to be seen if the new boss will be the same as the old boss or whether they’ll suck harder & show the others up for having Sparrow lungs. Maybe they’ll snow it with a few more vertically integrated twists to send a heavier message to what’s left of our neurons.

  11. We all know that the Australian landscape has been throughly degraded post European settlement. We need to repair the land; broad acre farming methods have to change. Trees need to return to the landscape, and the enormous loss of soil to the sea needs to be arrested. Federal and State governments need to address these vital issues in a constructive way; so far they have shown little inclination to do so. Without trees the natural water cycles that promote humidity and soil retention are aborted, and droughts accentuated. Peter Andrews’ Natural Sequence Farming approach, designed to repair and rehydrate the Australian landscape, is one of the best ways forward, and both Governments and individual farmers need to heed his message, right now.