Meet James Kellaway, the new AgriFutures Export Fodder Advisory Panel Chair

26.05.22

James Kellaway has a long-standing history with Australian agriculture spanning executive and non-executive roles from sheep and beef, to poultry, fruit and vegetables, with experience covering marketing, export market access and development, policy formulation and research, development and extension (RD&E). It’s this experience that stands him in good stead for his new role as the AgriFutures Export Fodder Advisory Panel Chair.  

James shared his views on key opportunities for the Australian export fodder industry and how he hopes to help capture these opportunities in his time as Chair of the AgriFutures Export Fodder Advisory Panel. 

James, tell us about your interest in the export fodder industry, and what motivated you to apply for the Advisory Panel? 

I have a rural and farming background, and despite living in Sydney to complete my undergraduate and post graduate degrees, I’ve always maintained a personal and professional interest in agriculture. I have spent the past 35 years working with various industries in the agricultural sector of the economy, namely sheep, beef, live export, poultry, eggs and fruit and vegetables. 

I have a keen interest in fodder production, and in export, market development and research. Like the AgriFutures Export Fodder Program I’m committed to ensuring we get maximum return on invested funds through innovative and commercially-driven research. I have no concern about Australia’s ability to do world leading research, but I think we can improve how we take that research and then develop it, extend it, commercialise it and adopt it through the value-chain. In leading the AgriFutures Export Fodder Advisory Panel, I want to make sure those paying a levy are seeing the benefit. 

I love working with farmers and value chain partners to see productive growth of the sector and its contribution to the Australian economy. Chairing the Advisory Panel will give me an opportunity to draw on my background in market access and development, facilitating RD&E and chairing boards and committees across a range of agricultural industries to contribute to advancing productivity in the industry and creating growth locally for healthy rural communities.  It also provides me with an opportunity to work with a team of highly professional Advisory Panel and industry members and a dedicated team at AgriFutures. 

What have been your career highlights to date? 

Generating growth for Australian produce overseas, through market access, has been a real highlight – both opening up new markets, including new Asian markets for Australian fruit, and developing markets where we already had access.  

To me, making sure that research can be adapted and adopted in a commercial sense is crucial. When I worked in the poultry industry we raised consumption of eggs from an average of 163 eggs per person to 224 eggs per person. When you add in population growth, we essentially doubled the industry over 10 years. The egg industry started off as a cottage-based industry, it’s now a very professionally run business, with many different offerings. From a marketing perspective, raising consumption and increasing demand for the product was a real achievement.  

What do you see as the key challenges facing the industry? 

Market access is a critical one. The industry has been reliant to date on four key markets in Asia: China, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. I think as an industry we need to build the portfolio of markets which are fit for the type of product that we can produce and wish to produce in the future, and ensure there’s consistently high demand for these products which can be promoted through consistent and regular supply.  Another key issue is the increasing cost of supply.  Rising input costs mean that our industry must become more efficient and productive to counter rises in costs.    

 

You have worked across a range of industries in the sector, with that in mind, what do you see as the opportunities for the export fodder industry?  

Looking at alternative markets is a big one, I’d like to see confirmation of market development and ensure we can supply those various markets in a cost-competitive way. 

Thinking about certain crops which not only directly benefit the export fodder industry but also benefit farmers by enabling them to diversify their farming portfolio and enterprise such as the use of dual-purpose crops. The National Oat Breeding Program is a fantastic initiative and business partnership with industry.  We want to be aspirational about other opportunities for growing alternative crops for the export fodder business. 

The beauty of the industry is that it’s not very large in terms of number of processors or exporters and as a result, there’s room for great collaboration and communication. And what’s more, in conjunction with the Australian Exporters Company (AEXCO), we have the opportunity to come together and seek feedback or input into industry RD&E priorities and researcher initiatives.  

What do you hope to achieve in your time as chair of the Export Fodder Advisory Panel? 

The new AgriFutures Export Fodder Program Strategic RD&E Plan developed in consultation with the industry identified four key priorities:  

  • Production of high-quality export-grade fodder 
  • Continued access to export markets 
  • Supporting innovation across the supply chain  
  • Increased adoption of R&D outputs by industry.  

Of upmost importance to me is maximising the dollar invested; how can we turn the dollar over ten times before we invest it? How can we make sure that we’re getting the best bang for our buck? At the end of the day, we’re talking about a limited budget. Personally, I’d rather focus on fewer big-ticket projects for the export fodder industry and do them really well, rather than spread the portfolio too thin, too far and too wide. 

I’m really keen to see the research portfolio developed within the value chain and for the export fodder industry to respond, saying they have received great return on their levies and are able to attribute results due to the investment of the levy. 

 

Interested in applying for a role on the AgriFutures Australia Export Fodder Program Advisory Panel? If you are passionate about making a positive contribution to your industry and would like to be notified of opportunities within the AgriFutures Australia Advisory Panels, please submit an expression of interest and we’ll notify you when we are recruiting for new members.