WA growers are set to benefit from a landmark agreement between the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) and China's Academy of State Administration of Grain (ASAG).
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two agencies in China last week as part of a trade mission to the country.
ASAG is overseen by China's State Administration of grain and is the country's only not-profit research institution with a focus on post-harvest research, with a primary role in grain science and technology including quality control and food safety.
AEGIC general manager Simon Johnson said the agreement had been developed over the past six months and was prompted by a need to engage nationally with China at a scientific level in the grains industry.
Mr Johnson said the agreement would see co-operation between AEGIC and ASAG in wheat quality and processing research and development.
"This MoU is both significant and important in that it will provide, possibly for the first time, a national co-operation platform in grains research and innovation between Australia and China," Mr Johnson said.
He said AEGIC had done a significant volume of work in the area of oats, barley and wheat in China with help from the Australian Embassy in Beijing.
"Through the work we've been doing and discussions with various organisations in China, it was decided ASAG would be the most appropriate organisation to collaborate with on a national level," he said.
"But it doesn't preclude us from talking on a company-to-company basis."
The collaboration builds on AEGIC's Opportunities for Australian wheat project which aims to increase Chinese flour millers' understanding of Australian wheat including its quality and functionality.
Mr Johnson said China produced about 120 million metric tonnes of wheat per annum and had targeted self-sufficiency in wheat production in the past, but recent trends had seen increased imports, with China forecast to import about import 6.5 million metric tonnes of wheat in 2014, up from 0.4mmt in 2008.
"The increase in imports creates significance opportunity for Australian wheat in China," he said.
"The research collaboration between AEGIC and ASAG will further deepen our understanding of China's wheat requirements and vice versa China's knowledge of the quality and functional versatility of Australian wheat."
Mr Johnson said the two agencies would work together to develop specific individual projects under the agreement.
Some potential projects identified include a focus on blending Australian and Chinese wheat to improve noodle quality and a collaboration and exchange of scientists and researchers between the two countries.
Mr Johnson said the MoU would benefit WA growers by providing them with a better understanding of the needs and demands of the Chinese market.
"Then feeding that back through to the growers, so ultimately they produce the varieties that are in demand in China and hopefully that will enable them to secure a higher price for producing a quality product," he said.
Mr Johnson said the MoU would allow Australia to develop its relationship with China and recognised that Australia was serious about collaboration.
"It is our belief that when you want to succeed in collaboration, and you have a good working relationship then you have a much better chance of success," he said.
"But ultimately it will be up to the trade to want to capture the opportunities that China presents."