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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

Value Chain Involvement in R, D & E Planning, Practice and Evaluation

Name of Leader:

Greg Mills

Names of Participants:

Roy Murray-Prior, Irene Kernot, Scott Ledger, Terry Parminter, Samantha Heritage, Liz Mann, Lone Lisborg, Alison Anderson, Jan Edwards, Alison Spencer and others

Main points of discussion

Change of focus from production to value chain means there is a shift from strictly farmer and researcher priorities to inclusive value chain priorities which can embrace stakeholders well beyond the farm gate and really enhance or maintain profitability. Farmers can be very valuable in planning and execution of R&D but there is also a role for value adders too. Production is not the primary problem these days as we move towards declining terms of trade, increasing competition, niche markets and products and special commodity processing characteristics. Under the GRDC model, farmers pay levies and influence funding allocation but many other industry stakeholders do not have a say in the application of these R, D & E dollars. Governments at state and federal level are now highlighting the importance of the triple bottom line in the application of their component of RD&E funding. This means that new RD&E projects must necessarily involve other members of the value chain to produce effective outcomes. Extension officers and other proponents of this change of approach feel challenged by R&D personnel who feel they do not need this involvement and are threatened by other groups having a say in what they perceive as their domain. Researchers need to be reminded about who is funding their work too.

It is hard to decide who you should include and consult with in a value chain project since sometimes individuals in the value chain who can have an effective input are hard to identify ie the Macadamia industry. Do you talk to the CEO of Woolworths or the store manager?

Wider ownership of projects can create inherent problems but can assist with delivery of outcomes if there is plenty of ownership of R&D outcomes.

Do other stakeholders need to be rewarded in kind or in cash? There is a need to reward individuals who give up their time to participate by making them direct beneficiaries of the outcomes, enhanced self-development and satisfaction or through direct payment for their strategic engagement in projects. Having the best people on board with a project is important in obtaining full value from the work; hence this may require specific rewards. The challenge is to find the right people but some people said that this was no problem in their work areas.

Major outcomes (what have you achieved from this discussion; how can this make a difference; what else do you need to do?)

Extension practitioners have a role to feed this change of approach back to researchers and funding bodies. They also need to engage project managers in discussions about the pros and cons of involving other stakeholders and demonstrating by reference or example how projects have greatly benefited from this change. Two examples of successful projects were quoted (1) Walgett Growers Group who have secured funding for there own R&D program and engaged staff to conduct work aimed at servicing their producers’ needs and target markets - refer Jan Edwards NSW Ag Tamworth (2) Gympie Packhouse which has developed a management committee which has plenty of project ownership which focuses well beyond the farm gate to the entire value chain. This project aims to enhance production, post harvest handling, packing and distribution to retailers to increase sales and enhance product quality. Refer Paul O’Hare, DPI Gympie.

Maintain awareness of need to maintain scientific rigour of any work in this approach, need for excellent communication and importance of preserving the value of input from other stakeholders. For farmers and industry to participate they must be respected as equals in the project. Extension people have to develop this role as core area of their work and influence.

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