AUSTRALIAN fodder exports have exceeded expectation for the 2017 calendar year, with the Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) reporting a 19 per cent year on year rise.
John McKew, AFIA chief executive, said Australian fodder exports had smashed through the one million tonne mark to sit at 1.18mt for the year.
He said there had been two market standouts in terms of growth – South Korea and China.
“China increased its imports of Australian fodder by 43pc, while Korea was up a whopping 50pc,” Mr McKew said.
He said the result in South Korea in particular had been somewhat of a surprise.
“The depth of demand was a little unexpected but they had local drought conditions and needed to get their hands on fodder,” he said.
Mr McKew said it was likely 2017 would mark a high point for exports to South Korea.
“It’s probably been a little opportunistic and you could easily see that figure come back a bit with a return to normal seasons.”
However, in China he said the result was something that could be built upon into the future.
“The China result also exceeded our expectations and is probably a reflection of China’s recognition of the quality of Australian fodder.”
“There has been a continued focus among oaten hay exporters to improve the quality of production, while China also sees Australia as a reliable exporter in terms of availability of supply.”
In terms of total tonnages, Japan imported around 500,000 tonnes of Australian fodder, China 317,000t and 242,000t went to South Korea, with the three northern Asian nations accounting for nearly all Aussie hay exports.
Taiwan was the fourth largest market for our fodder.
While acknowledging the potential pitfalls in having sales concentrated in such a small amount of markets, Mr McKew said at present the industry’s focus would be to continue to develop these markets to their full potential.
“The industry is mindful 96pc of exports are to four markets, meaning there’s a lot of eggs in a few baskets, but there is still a lot of growth there we feel.”
Mr McKew said AFIA was working with industry on getting protocols developed for other types of cereal hay apart from oaten hay in China.
“There are opportunities for both wheaten and barley hay.”
He said the current trade stand-off between China and the US could also have a positive impact for Aussie hay producers.
“The US has a strong dominance in the protein hay sector with its alfafa hay, but demand could emerge for our lucerne hay as an alternative if tariffs are imposed on US fodder,” Mr McKew said.
However, he said the focus for the Australian industry would be to get its oaten hay programs perfect before moving into other sectors.
Domestically, following two big hay seasons, the prolonged hot and dry autumn has started to mean hay reserves are slowly moving.
“NSW is now fairly drought stricken and there is solid demand starting to emerge there, and the longer it is dry the more excess product will get used up.
“The issue will be if it stays dry too long then livestock guys, rather than buying more fodder, might start to off-load their animals.”