September 25, 2013

25/09/13: Bulk handlers benefit from Australian deregulation; safety in silos message; minimising land loss

Bulk grain handlers with port facilities dominate the Australian export market, reports ABC Rural.

Grain industry consultant, Simon McNair calculates that grain handlers who own terminals have increased their market share from just over 40 percent, to more than 60 percent of the export market since deregulation in 2009.

Pre-deregulation there were concerns that bulk handlers would get a regional monopoly similar to that of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), Judging by McNair's figures, it seems that these fears have come to fruition.

However, the government is trying to tackle this issue. Following the recent election, the new Abbott government will progress with its yet-to-be completed mandatory code of conduct for port access. This would allow greater access arrangements to terminals for third parties, regardless of who owns the port terminal.

Did you know you can die in a grain bin in 60 seconds?

With the harvest season in full swing across much of the north hemisphere, it is worth refreshing your memory on the unique dangers of grain storage.

In the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported with a fatality rate of 62 percent, according to  Purdue University, Indiana, USA. more recently, in 2010, at least 26 US workers were killed in grain engulfments − the highest number on record.

This blog post from the U.S. Department of Labor looks at what safety measures should be considered when working in grain silos. The article includes information on the six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, 'struck by', combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.

Here's another scary statistic for you:

"Every year we lose an area of land with the potential to produce 20 million tons of grain," Michael Mack, CEO, Syngenta.

This is obviously worrying news for everyone, not just the grain industry. However, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Syngenta, is doing something about it. 

The organisation has launched the Soil Leadership Academy which aims to fill the gap in capacity building opportunities for policy makers to address land management issues, through distilling and sharing the latest science, knowledge and expertise in soil conservation and sustainable practice.

Key objectives will be to:
  • Develop an efficient, community, business and land user friendly decision making environment to prevent and reverse land degradation and desertification, to support soil conservation and facilitate greening of arid, semi-arid and dry-sub-humid regions of the world.
  • Establish a network of business and business representative bodies/organizations for regular engagement with the UNCCD providing business solutions and inputs on sustainable land management to the convention and its parties in order to contribute towards building a land-degradation neutral world.
“The Academy will serve as a source of state-of-the-art information related to soil conservation and land-management. It should help bridge the gap between science and policy and to build the capacity of those who manage the land to access knowledge,” said Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary, UNCCD.

English: parties to the convention
English: parties to the convention (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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