THE Australian grains industry needs to take its stewardship role seriously to avoid potential export market access issues according to Grain Producers Australia (GPA) chairman Andrew Weidemann.
“We’ve seen issues with maximum residue limits (MRLs) cause problems with market access of late, such as the scare with barley going into Japan, and it is something we all have to work together on,” Mr Weidemann said at a recent Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) conference in Ballarat, Victoria.
“The grains industry is changing and there is a more defined quality assurance aspect to the supply chain, which all segments of the industry need to embrace.
“The market is becoming more aware and more demanding that the standards be adhered to.”
Mr Weidemann said on his own property, he was pushing towards traceability.
“We manage our production system and we have all our paddock data records stored, along with the grain we store on-farm, which is accredited with the Graincare program.”
“That identity preservation of the grain helps to meet specific market requirements, so it is not just extra work, it can open up new marketing opportunities.”
At the production level, Mr Weidemann said farmers and advisors needed to be more careful than ever about using chemicals correctly.
“Issues such as chemical drift, especially in mixed cropping and horticulture areas, along with exceeding MRLs need to stamped out.”
He said at first glance, National Residue Survey (NRS) data gave the industry a good report card.
“We had compliance in 99.7 per cent of bulk export samples and 98.9pc of container samples.
“That indicates good agricultural practices by Aussie growers and a good understanding of market requirements.”
However, he said Australian growers and marketers needed to realise the difference in MRLs from country to country.
“When you’re looking at different MRLs, it can throw up some interesting results, for instance, compliance of chickpeas with haloxyfop MRLs into Taiwan is just 32pc.
“The MRLs are fine under the international Codex Alimentarius standards, but there are countries with specific rules that differ from the international standard.
“We need to publicise these rules and be aware where our grain is going.
“The issue with Scope barley, a Clearfield variety, and higher than acceptable levels of herbicide into Japan was very serious.
“If we ever lose the Japanese barley market, it will be detrimental to all of us.”
Mr Weidemann said GPA continued to work on a stewardship program for the production sector
“We need to do our best on all chemical issues if we are to maintain access to these products.
“It is not just the near term, it will also allow breeding companies with six year cycle times in developing varieties.
“If they know there are sound principles in terms of herbicide stewardship, they will have the confidence to continue breeding for herbicide tolerant lines, without the fear that the herbicide will be banned.
“Grain marketers can have confidence that the product they are selling will meet with customer satisfaction and customers will have confidence that the products grown in Australia meet the quality standards they require, it has a lot of flow-on effects past the growers.
“For the growers themselves, they will have farming systems that are sustainable.
“We are well regarded internationally, but we cannot rest on our laurels, we need to ensure that markets are protected, it is in everyone’s best interest right through the supply chain.”