Transport infrastructure is essential to moving over 80 million tonnes of Australian agricultural (including horticultural) output between farms, storage, processors and to markets each year. Agriculture in Australia is characterised by long supply chains with total distance between production, processing and markets often exceeding thousands of kilometres. CSIRO developed the Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT) to provide a comprehensive view of transport logistics costs and benefits due to infrastructure investments and policy changes in agriculture supply chains in Australia.

This initiative of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper allowed TraNSIT to be extended to a broad range of Australian agricultural commodities. The initial project goal of extending TraNSIT to 25 agricultural commodities has been exceeded with the extension of the tool to over 30 commodities representing 98% of Australian agricultural volume transported. TraNSIT is now a comprehensive logistics tool that has been applied to an extensive agricultural value chain dataset assembled through this project. TraNSIT now includes data for 222,000 enterprises, including 216,000 farms or production locations, 350 processors, 500 saleyards/feedlots, 530 storage facilities, and 3600 supermarkets and DCs. Commodities included to date are: beef, sheep/goats, dairy, pigs, poultry, grains, cotton, rice, sugar, buffalo, stockfeed, and horticulture. From these enterprises a total of 332,000 different origin to destination paths were created. The extension of TraNSIT to broader Australian agricultural commodities was conducted with support, input and validation from over 70 organisations, agencies and associations representing the agricultural/horticultural and transport sectors.

A baseline analysis was produced to show the annual transport cost for each commodity along with freight volumes along each road segment. The total annual transport cost (road and rail) is $5.8 billion or 9.8% of the total farm gross value of production in 2015/2016. Several case studies were identified by industry and government and were chosen for this report to represent the diversity of applications across Australia: Toowoomba Second Range Crossing (TSRC); flood events of 2016 in NSW Forbes shire; implementation of northern Australia Beef Roads Programme, higher mass vehicles for milk transport in Victoria; shift from rail to road transport; higher productivity vehicles between Barringun and Nyngan; and introduction of integrated sheep feedlotting and stock feed in south west Western Australia. The TSRC case study showed an annual saving of $5.4 million for agriculture, predominately for cattle, grains and post-processed commodities, with an average saving of about $21 per semi-trailer equivalent. For the flood events in central NSW late 2016, there was about a 5% increase in transport costs (or about $2 million) created by the road closures. Some commodities (e.g. cotton, grains) were impacted minimally (or not at all) during September and October, since the roads were blocked outside the harvest season. For the rail to road scenario, grains were more expensive ($208 million) when transported by road whilst cattle was much less expensive (about 70% less). These differences were primarily due to rail wagon capacity versus semi-trailer capacity.

TraNSIT is now being applied abroad, particularly in Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam to address supply chain inefficiencies and cross-border bottlenecks. In the future, TranSIT will be extended to incorporate rain and flood hazards. The updated tool will provide Australian agriculture and related stakeholders with a capacity to inform infrastructure (and related supply chain) investments and identify opportunities to reduce the economic impact of weather and flood events that disrupt either transport access or stock health. A future version of TraNSIT will have a web interface (TraNSIT Web) that can be used by key Federal and State agencies to test a range of transport infrastructure and regulatory scenarios.

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