Petition gives Australian grain industry voice against imports

Henry and Liz Wells, May 20, 2019

LAST WEEK’S announcement that The Manildra Group is importing a cargo of Canadian wheat has drawn criticism from varied quarters within the Australian grain industry over its impact on Australian grain prices, and a perceived biosecurity risk.

A cargo of Canadian wheat loaded at the Port of Vancouver last week, and is now on its way to Port Kembla.

Critics include CBH Group, the major supplier of grain to drought-stricken eastern states in the past year, and Mallee grower Georgina Warne, who on the eve of Saturday’s federal election started an online Stop Wheat Imports petition intended for delivery to the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

CBH Group general manager grower and external relations Brianna Peake said Manildra’s licence to import wheat created biosecurity concerns around it allowing movement of grain out of the port zone, and its market impact.

“The Western Australian grain industry is unique in its ability to provide grain that is free of pests and disease due to our strong biosecurity system,” Ms Peake said.

“CBH now expects to see a decrease in demand for higher protein wheat from the east coast,” Ms Peake said.

Last harvest, CBH Group received more than 1 million tonnes (Mt) of Australian Hard wheat.

Some of that has gone into supplying the east-coast market, with around 2Mt shipped in the past year, and more on the shipping stem.

Stocks uncertain

Grain Producers Australia chairman and Victorian grower Andrew Weidemann said the lack of national grain stocks data made it difficult for a company the size of Manildra to feel secure about being able to source all the grain it needs domestically during a drought period.

“We’re disappointed that we have to import grain, but we understand,” Mr Weidemann said.

“These companies need grain to survive.

“We’ve been in discussions with Manildra since late last year on this and if we don’t have a stocks information system, we don’t have a leg to stand on.”

While CBH Group has made its stocks position known over the drought period, Grain Central believes other bulk handlers have been less forthcoming over the drought period.

Sources have said a number of growers and traders with wheat to sell were now irked that the Canadian wheat would put price pressure on their positions in a global wheat market which had already fallen around AUD$100 per tonne since harvest.

In her petition, Ms Warne has claimed the landed price of imported grain is higher than local grain of equal quality.

“Consumers with import permits will use imported stocks and the threat of further imports to keep their foot on the throat of us Australian farmers, leaving us and the trade trying to export into the competitive world market, while imports come in through the front door.

“The stakes are significant.  We are potentially importing the biosecurity issues that currently give Australia a preference in certain grain markets.”

Ms Warne said weeds and diseases including Canadian thistle, karnal bunt, and GMO corn and soy could all be present in imported grain.

“The risks are all on the farmer, but the choice seems to have been made for us. This is our chance to have our say.

The cargo from Canada loaded and sailed from Vancouver last week, and is scheduled to arrive in Port Kembla on board m.v. African Pheasant in mid June.

It will be the first wheat to be imported since 2006-07.



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  1. Cameron Warne, May 24, 2019

    Supply & demand corrupted, again to the detriment of the most important component- the producers!

  2. Alastair starritt, May 22, 2019

    The value of Bio security in Australia should never be underestimated- the risk of such a breach could never be worth the apparent saving by end user proposing to import. Dry seasonal conditions as seen 2018 season usually produce although less tonnage higher protein grain suitable for milling. A thorough understanding of grain stocks currently on hand Is imperative before granting import permits – I will be reluctant to supply the Miller in question in the future

  3. michael, May 21, 2019

    Did we learn nothing in Australia when grain came into Melbourne years ago and now we cannot claim GM free wheat? Stop this pollution of a geographically isolated food bowl. Look along roads sides near any grain facility or major usage site and see the spillage from trucks.

  4. Dennis Ward, May 20, 2019

    Many agribusinesses and processors are having to import grain this year to survive and meet domestic demand. The grain simply isn’t there and specialty grains like adzuki beans, millet, sunflowers, canaryseed, linseed and safflower to name a few are being brought in from around the world.
    They are all subject to stringent testing and usually sterilisation to protect Australia’s cropping sector from biosecurity risk.
    Why bulk Canadian cereals are exempt is an excellent question.
    Why large and small end-users as well as the grain growers who supply them are unable to access accurate stock information so they can make rational marketing and purchasing decisions – is another good one to ask.
    Scomo seems to be able to pull off miracles – maybe he can help?

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