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South Australia s seed produc-
ing sector, heavily reliant on
exports, is going through a
flat patch as it approaches the 2010
A fall in demand in overseas
markets, as a result of the global
financial crisis, and a high value for
the Australian dollar have retarded
growth in the past year.
But Adelaide-based Seed
Genetics Australia, which exports
more than 90 per cent of its produc-
tion, sees better prospects ahead
for an industry which provides
forage seed for hay and pasture to
markets as diverse as Saudi Arabia,
Argentina and China.
South Australia produces the
bulk of Australia s forage seed,
largely based in the South-East,
where growing conditions are
"It s a hidden industry," SGA
managing director Dennis Jury
said. "The South-East produces 70
to 80 per cent of Australia s lucerne
and white clover seed for pasture
Nationally, forage seed produc-
tion of about 9000 tonnes generated
annual revenues of more than
$60 million, before the present
financial conditions virtually
halved selling prices from a peak of
$7000 a tonne.
However, the year ahead looks
more promising, with demand
expected to start to recover and
new markets such as North
Africa -- where irrigated pastures
are expanding -- and the "stans" of
Eurasia opening up.
Mr Jury sees 2010 as a year
of consolidation, with possible
acquisition opportunities, as the
SA seed breeder, grower and proces-
sor looks to build on its present
annual output of about 2500 tonnes
of lucerne and white clover seed
varieties and maintain turnover at
about $14 million.
SGA was founded in 2003, when
three leaders in the industry -- a
plant breeding scientist, a producer
and a marketer -- joined forces to
tackle the business of developing
"elite" forage seeds.
Keith farmer David Pengelly
and his family operate one of the
country s oldest seed producing
businesses, and he now head s
SGA s seed production and develop-
ment. Mark Harvey also ran his
own seed production and process-
ing operation before selling out to
Elders and becoming involved in
the agribusiness s seed sales and
marketing, and Dr Ross Downs
was a CSIRO principal research
scientist before establishing his
own consultancy, and then taking
the role of director of research and
plant breeding at SGA.
Dennis Jury, also a seed industry
specialist who worked for SA s
Seedco co-operative, was recruited
as business manager for the new
SGA had a simple plan -- to
develop forage seed varieties
with high yields to provide better
returns per acre and to work
closely with markets to meet
specific climate, soil, environment
and pest-control conditions.
Its technologies succeeded so
well that seed yields grew by 20 to
30 per cent, while retaining quality
and generating similar revenue
growth. Now it is seeking to extend
those yield gains by a similar
magnitude, while also lifting fodder
quality to improve productivity for
cattle and sheep farmers.
"We have elite material to move
up the pathway to the next level,"
Mr Jury said.
The R&D and the processing are
done at Keith.
The business employs more than
60 farmers to produce its seed and
now grows some seed overseas as
well, particularly in the US and
Among its 20 export markets,
the main destinations for lucerne
(alfalfa) seeds are Saudi Arabia
and Argentina, followed by Europe
and the US -- which also is a major
competitor in the global seed
industry. Harvests and exchange
rates dictate respective market
White clover, which accounts
for only about 15 per cent of SGA s
production, goes predominantly to
Europe and China.
While the private company
assesses opportunities to expand
into other seed varieties, Mr Jury
said SGA was "very focused on our
current crop range" and believed
there was scope for significant
further growth as it continued to
improve its seed quality through its
own breeding process and develop
"It will be a challenging year,"
Mr Jury admitted. "But we ve all
been in the agricultural business
for a long time and we ve seen these
"We remain confident -- provided
there s a good harvest."
Dennis Jury (left) and growers Mac and Rowen Hawkins in a white clover seed production field.
Seeds of success
A seed of an idea sown six years ago is reaping significant
rewards, writes Chris Milne.
Piper Alderman is excited by our clients' plans for 2010 and looking forward to a busy year ahead.
We have strengthened our national team with sixteen promotions across the country.
In Adelaide, we congratulate the following four lawyers on their promotion to Associate.
Pola Konarski, Corporate
Juniper Watson, Dispute Resolution
Brooke Willshire, Dispute Resolution
Sam Condon, Employment Relations
We also congratulate Adelaide-based
Partner James Dickson on his appointment
as National Head of our Corporate Division.
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