New body promotes wheat quality push

New body promotes wheat quality push


Agribusiness
Rob Sewell said Wheat Quality Australia would also be more involved in grower education than the previous council.

Rob Sewell said Wheat Quality Australia would also be more involved in grower education than the previous council.

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WHEAT Classification Council Australia (WCC) chair Robert Sewell this week announced the formation of a new classification company called Wheat Quality Australia (WQA).

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WHEAT Classification Council Australia (WCC) chair Robert Sewell this week announced the formation of a new classification company called Wheat Quality Australia (WQA).

The small company with two members, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Grain Trade Australia (GTA), will work with wheat breeders to classify new wheat varieties as they come through the wheat breeding system, according to their market qualities.

BRI Australia originally carried out the classification exercise but the Australian grains industry wanted to see an independent company oversee the new categorisations.

Mr Sewell said all the major players were on board and the company had secured enough money to get up and running with an on-going cost of about $1 million a year.

The operation was due to start on January 1 with the WCC meeting on Monday to discuss its plans.

"Growers misinterpreted wheat classification and wheat quality in Australia," Mr Sewell said.

"Now we're looking to accommodate that under a new company that will include grower consultation under the new process."

Most major players in the Australian grains industry are excited about the new formation including major marketers CBH, GrainCorp, Viterra and the Australian Grain Exporters Association.

Bulk handlers, breeding companies and flour mills throughout the country have also shown strong support for the move.

"We originally had to put our small council together very quickly after the sudden demise of AWB when it lost its single desk," Mr Sewell said.

"It was a small and select classification panel and it has made terrific gains in 12 months but going forward we need a new independent body."

The $1m a year price tag will cover the cost of laboratory testing analysis.

"It's significantly cheaper than the more than $4m a year in the AWB budget," Mr Sewell said.

Currently the council is funded by GRDC and the classification of wheat varieties is continuing despite the upcoming ownership change to an independent company.

"The breeds have to go through a panel to classify the capacity and the market characteristics of each new variety," Mr Sewell said.

"Nobody can deny that it's an expensive process.

"Growers are concerned about the agronomic practices involved but the principle aim of the new company will be to lift the quality of Australian wheat.

"Figures have shown that Australian wheat quality is slowly falling behind Canada and the USA so we're going to be market-driven rather than agronomy-driven."

Mr Sewell said the new company would also be more involved in grower education than the previous council.

"We want growers to understand why certain varieties are good and how they fit into the Australian and overseas market place," he said.

The WCC was established as a response to the deregulation of the export wheat market and recommendations made by Wheat Industry Association Expert Group.

The council started in February 2009 with the appointment by GRDC of its grower chair Mr Sewell.

The council was originally to be supported until June 2010 when a more permanent funding arrangement would be resolved.

The WCC was designed to translate market signals into wheat breeding and classification targets to facilitate the development and production of wheat varieties that meet the requirements of Australia's key markets.

The council is made up of members who represent key stakeholder groups in the Australian wheat industry and has access to the required technical expertise.

WQA will improve on the services of the WCC and will forge strong links with Australian growers while doing so.

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