Australia’s biggest wheat buyer, Manildra Grain, has given an assurance 100 per cent domestically grown grain will be used at its Narrandera mill.
The Manildra Group has found itself at the centre of a storm of controversy around biosecurity on bulk grain imports as it is due to take delivery of high protein Canadian wheat.
With the single shipment due to arrive in the next six weeks, the grains industry has called for full transparency of Australian stocks with a mandated reporting scheme, along with preserving biosecurity standards.
The permit for the shipment was issued by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and was subject to strict conditions to manage any biosecurity risk.
Manildra Group managing director John Honan said 100 per cent Australian wheat would be used at the company’s three NSW mills at Narrandera, Manildra and Gunnedah.
“Our domestic wheat logistics is fully booked through to the end of calen-dar 2019, with trains drawing supplies across Australia to service these mills,” Mr Honan said. “East coast grain growers, from whom we traditionally source our high protein wheat, had a poor harvest in 2017 and 2018. This has left a shortfall of high protein wheat required for our value-added exports, including gluten and starch, produced at our Nowra, NSW, plant. We have safeguarded the future of our plant by importing high protein wheat, and we have an ongoing requirement to continue this through to the end of 2019.”
The Narrandera mill uses low protein soft wheat produced under irrigation to make biscuit flour, and hard wheat sourced from the western Riverina.
The Manildra Group’s four mills in NSW process over one million metric tonnes of wheat every year, or enough to make 100 loaves of bread every second.
The company is the largest buyer of wheat in Australia and larger than most of Australia’s export markets including Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia.
“Our demand accounts for more than 50 per cent of the east coast milling market, and more than 70 per cent of the NSW milling market – our presence underpins a strong competitive market for local grain,” Mr Honan said.
He said Western Australia did not have the suitable high protein wheat critical to the Nowra plant operations.
“Whilst having to take this step to shore up the supply shortfall, Manildra Group continues to support the efforts of grain grower groups to introduce a trans-parent stsock reporting system, to better inform supply and demand decisons by growers and buyers.”
NSW Farmers Grains Committee chairman Matthew Madden called on importers to demonstrate the need for these steps if they are to maintain community support and uphold their social licence.
NSW Farmers wrote to the Federal Government seeking an explanation about changes made to the import protocols for bulk grains.
“It would appear changes were made to the protocol late last year and there was little to no engagement with industry about these changes,” Mr Madden said. “We must not jeopardise our clean and safe reputation for the sake of expediency.”
Mr Honan said the imported wheat would be exclusively processed at Shoalhaven Starches, in Nowra, in a closed loop system, into value added product for the export market.
“Our preference is to use Australian wheat, and will continue to buy high protein wheat from local growers, as supply permits.”