WHILE foot and mouth disease (FMD) and its potential impacts on Australian agriculture have been dominating the headlines at present, the head of the Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) said it was just one of a number of potential issues it was monitoring.
Ahead of the organisation's annual conference, to be held in Toowoomba next week, AFIA chief executive Paula Fitzgerald said the organisation was aware of the impact FMD could have on the sector, not only in terms of lost domestic sales but in terms of exports.
"We know we would be significantly impacted if the disease came in," Ms Fitzgerald said.
"There would be the loss of the majority of our domestic fodder markets if there was a severe outbreak and we would face export bans as well so it is certainly something the industry is taking seriously," she said.
"It highlights the importance of strong investment by our government in biosecurity in order to keep our multi-billion dollar agriculture sector going."
However, Ms Fitzgerald said the fodder sector was not just looking at immediate threats, such as FMD, currently causing havoc in Bali just to our north.
"Looking down the track we're also making sure we're keeping track of more systemic changes such as the increase in consumption in plant proteins and whether that would mean an overall drop in meat consumption."
"Expectations are that people may consume more plant-based proteins but meat consumption will not be significantly impacted but we have to consider all possibilities, including a fall in demand in fodder associated with a drop in demand for meat."
In the shorter term Ms Fitzgerald said the industry was anxiously looking at long-term forecasts for a wet spring.
"If the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) outlooks come to pass it could get very wet and that will present problems for those looking to get fodder into a bale or a wrap.
"There is likely to be less hay produced in mixed fodder / grain regions this year due to the good moisture levels and high grain prices at planting but there is still a large volume of hay produced every year and the forecasts of wet weather, especially on the east coast, has some nervous."