SURGING global food prices are to add more than $500 million in revenue to South Australia’s agricultural sector.
Drought in the US, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine has led to a 10 per cent jump in food prices.
The state’s farmers are now poised to benefit from a 30 per cent rise in grain prices this year, resulting in forecasts of a $2.4 billion SA grain crop. Farmers of crops such as wheat, barley, canola and pulses will benefit because of a reasonable season across much of SA and near-record prices.
“Agriculture is the next centre for wealth in this country,” Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA president Richard Fewster said as the Royal Adelaide Show opened yesterday.
“Whathas happened with agriculture is mining has completely drowned it out and taken the eye of governments off it, but it is about to shine.”
South Australia’s agriculture sector generated more than $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2010-11 – up a third on $4.5 billion in fiscal 2009-10.
Global food prices have been at record highs for the past two months, the World Bank’s Food Price Watch report and the United Nations food price index show.
World wheat prices have risen because the grain is replacing corn supplies – severely depleted by the US drought – as a livestock feed supply.
But the high Australian dollar has dampened the prospects for many other rural commodities, including beef, lamb, wool, wine, horticulture and seafood.
Good seasonal conditions and high grain prices mean the value of the state’s grain crop is expected to reach $2.4 billion this year, the second most-valuable yet, with the rare occurrence of high prices and good yields.
Grain prices have jumped by about 30 per cent since May.
Other South Australian products are benefiting from strong domestic markets, including chicken meat, pork and some horticultural produce.
Chicken meat sales from South Australia to interstate markets have grown to 66,265 tonnes in fiscal 2010-11 from 10,518 tonnes in fiscal 2004-05.
Similarly, the state’s pork sector has expanded from processing half its annual production to processing 50 per cent more than it produces, requiring shipping in a large number of pigs from interstate.
The potential for the South Australian agricultural sector to continue expanding significantly is shown by examples such as Adelaide Mushrooms, at Monarto, which has taken a low-value, 148ha sheep property and is producing $45 million worth of mushrooms annually.
Adelaide Mushrooms managing director Doug Schirripa said because everyone has to eat, the Monarto business’ prospects are excellent, and he is expanding its giant 15ha mushroom growing shed to lift production by as much as 20 per cent to $55 million a year.
Similarly, d’VineRipe’s $65 million, hi-tech tomato glasshouse, at Two Wells, spans 27ha and is producing 15,000 tonnes of truss and specialty tomatoes a year.
Food SA chief executive Catherine Barnett said the outstanding potential of the food manufacturing and processing sector, included the ability to quickly double to $10 billion based on demand.
“When you look at the figures, the food sector is really made up of many smaller companies and if every one of them grew to employ one or two more people it would make a big difference to our economy,” Ms Barnett said.