MEMBERS of the Korean flour milling industry made their first official visit to Australia since the deregulation of Australia's wheat industry during 2008.
While the trip was considered a success, the delegation has expressed great disappointment that in the two weeks since their return the Australian grains industry had failed to follow up.
According to Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) program leader Matt Yamatoto, Korean flour millers have felt let down since the abolition of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), arguing that vital parts of the supply chain have fallen by the wayside.
"Since the Korean delegates returned home there had been no contact from Australian industry bodies," Mr Yamatoto said.
AEGIC program leader Barry Cox said in the past the AWB fulfilled that role as part of their statutory marketing powers.
"The Korean delegation said since 2008 they hadn't seen a lot of industry delegations coming through," Mr Cox said.
"They do see the traders, CBH and the like, but they value the independence of industry organisations and that is what's been missing.
"Back then though, virtually any grower that delivered wheat became the sole property of the AWB and it would then have the charter of marketing the wheat, engaging with the customers, doing the promotion and making sure customers were receiving the quality they needed for the product."
He said compared with efforts made by the US grains industry, Australia failed to provide the necessary training and education around its wheat.
Mr Yamatoto said the US continued to do a very good job engaging and communicating with the Korean market.
"Since 2008 Korean companies have been saying they are now being serviced by US Wheat Associates which visits and educates these markets about US wheat and how to use it," he said.
"AEGIC is now going to fit into that role and the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) is also there to represent the grain industry as a whole.
"Our role is to conduct market intelligence and research and development as well as training and educating our customers on how to utilise Australian wheat and to support the trade."
Korea represents a significant market for Australian wheat, with 5.6 million tonnes imported in 2012.
While Australia still maintains its position as the second biggest exporter to Korea after the US, AEGIC and GIWA have a long way to go if it is to sustain the market.
GIWA chair Jon Slee said Korea had been a key export market for almost 40 years and it was important to protect that.
"We always knew Korea was important but we didn't realise the desire was as high as Japan until the Korean delegation showed us that they were looking for that void to be filled," he said.
The delegation signalled the Korean market could require up to 900,000t of the ASW blend (a mixture of Noodle and APW2 wheat) in the next year.
Mr Cox said the concern was that while demand for Australian wheat for Udon noodle production remained high, Noodle wheat production was on the decline.
"For this particular noodle - the Udon noodle - Australia is the only country that produces suitable wheat," he said.
"But the varieties haven't kept up in terms of yields compared with varieties in other grains.
"So growers trying to maximise their return per hectare have chosen other varieties over Noodle."
Mr Cox said a review of the Noodle wheat industry was underway to ensure Australia could meet future demand.
The results of the review will be announced at the 2014 Agribusiness Crop Updates to be held in Perth on February 24 and 25.
New varieties are also expected to boost production in Australia.
Last week Intergrain confirmed that a large number of new Udon lines were under evaluation.
Intergrain WA territory manager David Meharry said the company was currently making Udon noodles in its lab and had been conducting eating tests each day in January to assess their suitability.
"Our key breeding target is yield performance and we have a number of lines that match or exceed Mace yield levels," Mr Meharry said.
"We anticipate releasing new Udon lines in spring 2014."