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In 2011, 4 Corners released ‘A bloody business’ highlighting beef animal welfare in the live-trade industry. The story basically shut down the beef live-trade industry in northern Australia for about 6 months. In 2018, the beef industry was seeking over $600 million in compensation by the forced shutdown.The lack of market resilience (i.e. markets can be shut down by either party) exposed the lack of financial resilience in the northern beef industry. One key option strategy to diversify the beef industry was to encourage the development of abattoirs to increase market opportunities.

Well the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) has just mothballed its $100 million, 3 year old abattoir, primarily due to supply chain logistics. This should be putting fear into the northern beef industry. The AACo identified the under-performing non- wagyu cattle supply chain. Beef production in the north is closely tied to the wet season when cattle are fattened and sold. For those that are unaware of the industry, read Gleeson, Martin and Mifsud (2012), but in summary cattle take a lot longer to get to market than southern areas as they experience significant weight loss during the year when feed is not available. Also read the ACCC report for more information.

While the Live trade industry is still a small component of the value of beef exports (data from: ABARE 2017, Table 12.4 Table) but for the northern region it is the major option for sales. Being limited to one sales option reduces the industries resilience to future shocks.

With the recent debacle in the live sheep trade industry, some hard thinking about how suppliers can improve their herds for the abattoir sector is long overdue. Primarily they are going to have to break the significant weight loss they experience and find an economic way of achieving this.

Under the development assistance program in south and west Asia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has launched the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) , which aims to improve the integrated management of water, energy, and food in three major Himalayan river basins – the Indus, Ganges and the Brahmaputra – covering eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. With an investment of $46 million, the SDIP leverages Australia’s expertise in food, water and energy sectors and is delivered through a consortium of Australian and South Asian partner agencies. The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is a major partner in the SDIP along with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), International Centre of Excellence in Water Resources Management (ICE WaRM), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), World Bank—South Asia Water Initiative Phase II (SAWI), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and The Asia Foundation (TAF).

ACIAR aims to contribute to the program by bringing together the ‘big picture’ related to sustainable food systems; creating space for regional engagement, demonstrate field to policy links; and showcase relevant institutional models. The first featured project under this program is titled ‘value chain and policy interventions to accelerate zero-till adoption across the Indo-Gangetic plains’ focuses on examining how adoption of zero-till (ZT) seed drills can be accelerated to help reduce stubble burning and boost sustainable food production in North-West India and the eastern Gangetic plains.

Activities undertaken in the project so far include three inception workshops across the focus areas in Punjab, West Bengal and Bangladesh. A value chain analyses of the Happy Seeder and Zero-Till drill, which was followed up with focus group discussions and an extensive farm household survey. The outcomes of the field activities will inform policy recommendations and development of pathways to enhance adoption of these conservation agriculture technologies in the region.

“Doing my PhD at GFAR was a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to work with and be mentored by some of the most brilliant minds in the field of agricultural and food economics. My supervisors Prof. Wendy Umberger and Dr. Alexandra Peralta (also Dr Matty Demont from IRRI) were extremely supportive and helpful throughout my PhD journey. Another great thing in doing PhD at GFAR is that I was able to share my experience with a large group of GFAR PhD students, who became my good friends as well. Having friends within the Centre made the experience more enjoyable and one of the best parts of my PhD journey.”

“I completed my PhD at GFAR in the field of environmental and water economics. The past few years have opened my eyes wide to the challenges and rewards of academic life. Some of my most treasured memories of the last few years are doing my data collection in the United States and Mexico for my PhD as part of an Endeavour fellowship. Although the PhD was hard, I am so happy I stuck to it and completed. Writing and finishing the thesis taught me not only about my research field, but also about myself and what I am capable of.”