A transparent and effective grain stocks reporting regime is needed to take the guessing game out of the Australian grains industry.
Currently, there are too many questions that go unanswered. Do we have adequate stocks along Australia's east coast, on-farm or in the bulk handling system? Do we need to import grain from overseas or from the west coast of Australia to meet demand?
Agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) offer estimates on grain stocks, and bulk handlers have some idea of how much grain is available.
Growers make monthly estimates based on growing conditions and other information, and private forecasters will also give opinions, but in the end it's still a guessing game. Grain production can change drastically and rapidly, as this drought has proven.
In addition to preserving biosecurity standards, grain growers deserve to have full transparency of stocks in Australia to dispel rumour and speculation about the level of grain stocks. People can't make good decisions based on bad information.
Growers need to make decisions based on the correct information, not a gut feeling. Real-time harvest information, such as weekly data on the crop as it comes in, would allow industry to profile the crop and decide what is high grade, feed or milling grades. Quarterly information on total stocks that are in the system as well as on-farm stocks, such as that reported in the US, needs to be surveyed.
Having a rigorous grain stock reporting systems such as these would improve transparency, price discovery and public policy.
The drought has exemplified the need for a robust stocks reporting regime - now is the time that the re-elected Coalition government got on with the job of mandating a reporting scheme.