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Manildra Canadian wheat imports move into second year

Liz Wells, January 31, 2020

Quattro’s Port Kembla terminal, which includes the cluster of silver silos, receives Canadian wheat for use at Manildra Group’s Shoalhaven Starches plant. Photo: NSW Ports

SHIPMENTS of high-protein Canadian wheat to Port Kembla are continuing this year as The Manildra Group again heads offshore to bolster domestic supplies for its Shoalhaven Starches plant.

The plant is located on the New South Wales south coast, close to Port Kembla, which Grain Central understands received eight cargoes of Canadian wheat loaded in Vancouver between June and December last year.

The first vessel for 2020 is currently on the berth at the Quattro Ports terminal, and the next vessel is scheduled to arrive next month.

Each panamax vessel has brought around 55,000 tonnes of wheat, which puts 2019 imports at 385,000t.

Imported wheat volume in 2020 is expected to be at least that, and could be more if farmers in NSW miss out on the fourth year of widespread planting rain in a row.

Most of NSW’s wheat this year was produced in the state’s south, but yields in most districts lucky enough to get a harvest were well below average due to minimal rain in spring.

Some farmers in pockets of central and northern NSW did manage to harvest wheat crops this year, with quality and protein generally described as excellent.

This wheat has largely been absorbed by Sydney and country NSW flour and semolina millers, and made imports the obvious supplier to the Shoalhaven plant, a producer or ethanol and gluten and Australia’s single biggest wheat user.

If NSW growers get intended wheat area planted in favourable conditions this year, and the growing season is kind, the need to import Canadian wheat is likely to stop in November.

Following is an open letter from Manildra Group managing director John Honan which appeared in other media earlier this month to explain the ongoing imports:

Dear Australian Grain Growers,

As the severe drought continues for the third year in a row, Manildra Group will continue to apply for import permits of high protein Canadian wheat through the Department of Agriculture (DOA) in 2020.

We are committed to a sustainable grains industry and we fully understand our national reputation depends on our biosecurity import standards and committed to maintaining these strict industry safeguards set by DOA, as we have done so in 2019.

Unfortunately, east-coast grain growers have again continued to have a very poor harvest in 2019 and this has left a shortfall of high-protein wheat required for our value-added exports, including wheat  gluten and wheat starch, produced at our Nowra plant. Whilst we have secured a portion of wheat domestically for our Nowra plant in 2020, the recent harvest of suitable high protein wheat is insufficient to supply the entire facility’s requirements.

We have safeguarded the future of our Nowra plant by supplementing our domestic wheat purchases with imported high-protein wheat, and we have an ongoing requirement to continue this during 2020.

Our preference is to use Australian wheat, and we will continue to buy high-protein wheat from local growers, as supply permits.

We continue to use 100-per-cent Australian wheat at our three NSW flour mills, at Gunnedah, Manildra and Narrandera. Our domestic wheat logistics are fully booked through to the end of calendar 2020, with trains drawing supplies across Australia to service these mills.

Manildra Group is the largest user of wheat in Australia. Our demand accounts for a high percentage of the east-coast milling market, and our presence underpins a strong competitive market for local grain.

We continue to purchase a significant amount of Australian wheat every year, including this year.

Whilst having to take this step to shore up the supply shortfall, Manildra Group continues to support the eff orts of grain grower groups to introduce a transparent stock-reporting system, to better inform supply and demand decisions by growers and buyers.

Above all, we share the high hopes of our growers and customers for a better grain season in 2020.

Manildra said 2019 and 2020 were the only years in Manildra Group’s 67-year history that exceptional drought circumstances had forced the requirement to import.

 

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