GRAINS Industry Association of WA chairman Jon Slee has expressed the need for a much better and co-ordinated approach to WA grain market access issues if the State's industry wants to stay at the front of the global export pack.
Speaking at GIWA's market access forum earlier this week, Mr Slee said grain market access and biosecurity had always been a major issue within the industry but generally in the past it was well-managed by government and during the days of the regulated grain industry, the appropriate statutory marketing boards like the Australian Wheat Board and the Grain Pool of WA led industry discussion and strategy negotiations.
Now that the world's grain requirements are quickly changing, the traditional list of market access issues like weed seeds, pests and tariffs is increasing and the scope has broadened considerably in recent years.
Mr Slee said technology is also advancing at a rapid rate and the industry's ability to test for very low-level presence of different substances is much greater today than just 10 years ago - not to mention what it might be like in another 10 years time.
In his overview of market access issues, Mr Slee said some of WA's exports are already going to markets like the European biofuels industry where the Australian grower is required to meet certain criteria for EU sustainability certification.
And there was even more red tape to come.
He said there is a new addition to this certification that the Australian industry will need met if it wants to keep the door open for Australian canola into the EU.
Mr Slee said a full 'life cycle assessment' for the WA canola supply chain (from the paddock all the way to the European biofuels industry depot) needs to be done and the WA industry needs to demonstrate through very sound science that the energy and carbon footprint to make a single litre of fuel is below the threshold set under the EU Renewable Fuels Directive.
Mr Slee said similar requests are now coming from large global food manufacturers, fast food chains as well as major supermarkets concerned with the global footprint fall-out of their manufactured products.
He said while the WA industry is still seeing strong growth in demand for its grain, it is also starting to see increased competition from low-cost production areas of the world like the Black Sea and South American nations.
If the WA industry wants to remain as a quality grain supplier to its current (and future) markets it will need to do a lot more than just rely on its reputation from the past and the Australian clean and green image.
Mr Slee said to gain or maintain access to many of the markets, especially at the higher-price end of the marketplace, WA's grains industry would need to prove through sound science and robust data that it is in fact as clean and green as it claims.
"There is an increasing need for us to prove that we have not breached the marketplace's requirements for weed seeds, pests, diseases, chemical residues, heavy metals, mycotoxins, low-level tolerance levels for biotech events, proof of sustainable production practices and the list goes on," he said.
"As an industry we need to get a much better co-ordinated approach to keep ahead of these changes and make sure that industry itself manages the whole grain supply chain without having restrictions and regulations imposed upon it."
p See next week's Farm Weekly for more reports on the GIWA market access forum.