The need for a guaranteed supply of molasses, whether it be organised physically or virtually, was one of the strong messages for the state government’s drought program review when it visited Cloncurry.
In doing so, the rhetorical question was asked, do we value Australia’s livestock as much as we do our fuel security.
The issue was raised by Jacqueline Curley, Gipsy Plains, who voiced the uncertainty felt by many about uninterrupted supply, despite mill guarantees.
“People had guarantees until January but the mills have rung and said it’s all gone,” she said.
“This was an issue in 2013, when we kept our herd on spinifex country alive with molasses.
“A similar thing happened then and some sort of storage facility along the northern railway line was spoken about then.”
She said a reserve big enough to maintain the breeder herd in each state was needed.
Teasing out the practicalities, drought review commissioner, former AgForce CEO, Charles Burke, asked how long it could be stored for before it became unusable.
Fellow reviewer, ex-QFF CEO, Ruth Wade, then posed the question of whether anyone had forward contracted molasses, saying that thinking ahead and incentivising people to do so was one of the issues they were hearing loud and clear.
“This is an issue for intensive livestock industries too,” she said.
“There should be some work done on this – there could be a trading scheme.
“One recommendation could be that a study be done into whether this would be feasible.”
As well as working out how to coordinate the use of, and manage the use by date, of such a scheme, how users would pay for the product would be part of such a study, Ms Wade said.
On the availability this season, Mr Burke said he’d been told that mills were saying there was less molasses to begin with, thanks to the season.
“And they’ve had to look for export opportunities in good seasons and have contracts they’re locked into.
“This (shortage) happened once before – the Queensland government committed to a load then flooding started and they ended up with a boatload no-one wanted.”
Ms Curley said that was just the sort of scenario she wanted to avert with a storage scheme, because she said it was happening too regularly.
The Member for Traeger, Rob Katter, said there were precedents in that similar calls were made for enough fuel to be stored to meet Australia’s needs in a national emergency.
“The question is, do we value Australia’s livestock in a similar way,” he asked.
Mr Burke said it was imperative to find a way to learn from what Queensland producers had gone through in a number of ways, including sourcing feed stocks.