For the first time since 2007 Australia has approved the bulk importation of foreign-grown wheat due to the impact of drought on the grains industry.

This week the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources approved a permit for the Australian-owned Manildra Group to buy Canadian-grown high protein wheat to be processed at its Shoalhaven Starches plant in Nowra, NSW.

According to Manildra Group, high protein wheat is in short supply due to the worst drought in more than a century.

“Shoalhaven Starches’ preference is Australian wheat, and Manildra Group will continue to buy wheat from Australian farmers as supply permits,” Manildra Group said.

Wheat production in NSW reached a low of 3000,000 tonnes last harvest, while Western Australia experienced a record high yield of more than 10 million tonnes.

In the company’s 67-year history this is the first time Manildra Group has imported wheat from foreign growers.

GrainGrowers Limited Chairman Brett Hosking said food security is not a concern nor is low levels of produce.

“We have been transporting grains from the prosperous farms in Western Australia to the east coast for dairy and livestock farms and flour mills.

“Manildra Group are pursuing a particular type of grain that is in short supply on the east coast and mustn’t be available in WA,” he said.

Agriculture Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said that biosecurity was paramount in this transaction and it was the responsibility of the Department to strictly manage risks.

“The import conditions require that the grain is sourced from areas assessed as presenting a low plant and animal biosecurity risk and impose strict movement, storage and processing controls within Australia.”

GrainGrowers Limited said they are working closely with the Department to ensure the biosecurity of the imported grains.

“The biggest concern for the grains industry, and agriculture in general, is that biosecurity remains a closed and secure process with zero opportunity for breaches,” Mr Hosking said.

The Canadian wheat is expected to arrive at Port Kembla, NSW, within the next eight weeks.

This may be the first of up to eight other applications the Department is considering for imports of wheat, canola, corn and sorghum from Canada and the USA.

“As a farmer myself, I look out at my farm and see all of the grains I can sell… but we operate in an export market and we should not put up barriers surrounding trade,” Mr Hosking said.

Source: Australian Farmers