AS winter grain harvest gets underway farmers need to ensure the maximum residue levels (MRLs) for chemicals in grains are not exceeded so access to valuable markets is maintained.
GrainGrowers general manager policy and innovation, David McKeon, said a number of key markets, including China, South Korea and Taiwan, were in the process of updating MRLs for the grain they import.
“In many cases this means that tolerances for chemicals in grain will be reduced and in some cases only grain with zero residue levels will be accepted,” he said.
“Residue testing in some markets is also increasing in both rigour and frequency. ”
Mr McKeon said to ensure compliance with MRLs grain farmers must only use registered/permitted chemicals on crops and ensure any chemicals applied were appropriately declared when delivering grain.
North West NSW grain grower, Ian Gourley, Narrabri, said chemicals played an important role in managing pests and diseases but a strategic approach was needed to be taken to their application.
“Balancing the fine line between effective chemical use and MRL compliance is vital in our farm business,” he said.
“Reading labels, knowing the approach of our bulk handler, declaring applications and ultimately considering the end markets our grain is destined for is essential.”
Domestic and international markets for Australia’s $13.5 billion annual grain harvest value the safety and reliability of Australian grain.
Mr McKeon said exceeding MRLs could have significant consequences for a grain-supplying nation.
“Australia has a long and enviable record of the supply of safe, MRL-compliant grain to the world,” he said.
“However, not complying with MRLs could mean that, where there are multiple failures, a nation’s grain will be deemed ineligible for import, from any exporter, and from any part of that nation, for a specified period.
“Almost certainly breaches of MRLs will see a grain consignment subject to additional testing, demurrage, disposal, on-forwarding or return – all of which amount to additional costs to exporters and ultimately the supply chain.
“Also of paramount concern is the protection of Australia’s international reputation as a supplier of quality, safe grain.”
As well as the steps taken by farmers to comply with MRLs, exporters and bulk handlers also have a responsibility.
“Exporters must not export grain with chemicals that exceed the given MRL, bulk handlers need to be able to guarantee grain held does not exceed given MRLs and transport operators and container packers must ensure a clean passage of grain,” Mr McKeon said.
Bulk handlers, in particular, are increasing their already significant chemical residue vigilance to ensure compliance with end market requirements.
This includes in many cases increased testing of grain deliveries, and with it increased potential for contract violation, liability for stock damaged by contaminated deliveries, penalties and/or non-receival of grain to grain farmers.
The bulk handler residue monitoring programs complement the farm gate levy-funded National Residue Survey which arranges for the collection and analysis of over 6000 grain samples per annum.
The results of the NRS Grains Program are disseminated to bulk handlers, exporters and domestic processors for marketing and quality assurance purposes.
MRL grower check list
- Ensure both pre-harvest and post-harvest chemical applications adhere to the Australian Grain Industry Code of Practice.
- Use only registered products and observe all label recommendations including:
- label and application rates;
- withholding periods; and
- safe operating procedures.
- Do not adopt recommendations for ‘off-label’ usage of chemicals without permit.
- Closely manage the hygiene of trucks or augers used to convey grain.
- Appropriately declare chemicals applied, at the time of delivery.
- Understand that compliance with Australian MRLs for grain, does not constitute compliance with international market MRLs. Before signing contracts, check the importing country’s MRLs to ensure grain will be compliant.
For more information, including that specific to bulk handlers, growers can refer to the following resources:
Australian Oilseeds Federation