Australian Lucerne Seed Industry Synopsis

In Australia, 83 per cent of total lucerne seed production is produced in the upper- and mid- south-east of South Australia, around the area of Keith, Naracoorte, Tintinara and Bordertown, encompassing more than 16,000 hectares of both irrigated and dryland area.

The overall lucerne seed industry in Australia is currently worth around $95 million per year (2008 figures) with exports contributing around $30 million and domestic sales of $8.7 million. The remainder of the value lies in associated inputs and the allied industries (e.g. seed processors and marketers) that are crucial to the lucerne seed value and supply chain.

The Australian lucerne seed industry is made up of over 250 individual seed producing farms (seed growers submitting lucerne seed for ASA certification). It encompasses non irrigated production (dryland) and irrigated production systems, mainly from centre pivot and border-check (flood) irrigation systems. The Australian lucerne seed industry is capable of producing low dormancy through to highly winter-active varieties, which has led to companies from all over the world coming to Australian lucerne seed producers to multiply seed.

Of the average 9700 tonnes of lucerne seed produced annually in Australia, industry participants suggest 26 per cent (2500 tonnes) is sold into the domestic market and 74 per cent (7200 tonnes) is exported.

Based on an average sowing rate of 6.0 kg/ha across all market segments in Australia, the annual sowing of 2500 tonnes represents an area of 417 000 ha or about 18 per cent of the total current lucerne area in Australia (2.3m ha).
At an average wholesale price of $7.00/kg, the Australian domestic lucerne planting seed market is estimated to be worth about AU$17.5m.

Between 2005 and 2010, Australia exported a total of 69,220 tonnes of lucerne planting seed to 67 countries across nine global regions. Of the total seed exported about 95 per cent was exported to 16 countries.
During 2015, Australia exported a total of 13,600 tonnes of lucerne planting seed to 33 countries, with 11 countries representing 95 per cent of all the seed exported.

Source: Towards a sustainable Australian temperate pasture legume planting seed market. AgriFutures Australia Report ( 2016)