STOP WHEAT IMPORTS – FOR THE FUTURE OF AUSTRALIAN FARMING

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On Tuesday the 14th of May the Australian Government announced that they have issued an import permit for one shipment of Canadian wheat into Australia.

http://www.agriculture.gov.au/about/media-centre/media-releases/single-shipment-bulk-grain-permit-issued

The company which the Government issued the import permit for is the Manildra Group, which they confirmed is for use in their Shoalhaven Starches facility in Nowra, Rural NSW.

The reason for the issuance of the permit was cited by the applicant, stating that there are "inadequate supplies in Australia".

This comment is untrue. There are adequate local stocks of the quality required for sale each day in the local Grain Market. This is confirmed by the growers and bulk handlers storing this wheat, as well as the price. Which has been under significant pressure recently, falling around $100, to a level that sees us currently exporting high protein wheat from QLD.

Wouldn’t a true deficit warrant continued local price support?

Australia has not seen bulk wholegrain imports since the 2002/2003 season, and in the past, whole grain imports have been heavily regulated by Government. Previous permits demanded the grain was restricted to the Metro area unless it was heat treated, to ensure biosecurity standards and protect Australian agriculture. This criteria changed late last year, so now we will see the first cargo arrive and be transported into rural areas without any treatment required. All of this is without substantial consultation or advice to Australian farmers.

And for no economic benefit:

CANADIAN IMPORT CALCULATION – Late March

(US$250 FOB + US$23 Ocean Freight) / 0.708 + AU$40 (Unloading & AQIS Fees) + AU$15 (Inland road freight) = AU$440/mt

This is compared to an Australian price of sub $400/mt. I cannot understand why the government is allowing this biosecurity risk for no net benefit to the Australian economy.

The landed price of imported grain is higher than local grain of equal quality, but this will not stop imports.

Consumers with import permits, will use imported stocks and the threat of further imports to keep their foot on the throat of us Australian farmers, leaving us and the trade trying to export into the competitive world market, while imports come in through the front door.

Australia is currently exporting around 1 mmt per month into world markets - Do not be fooled, these exports include high protein grades that the importer and government say are not available.

The machinations of this extend beyond this year and could have serious consequences to our on farm profitability moving forwards. Lower yields may no longer be offset by good prices if these imports become a regular occurrence. This will add more pressure to regional communities, requiring further government assistance, depleting land values and longer-term production security.

The Government has frequently and continually denied that any permits have been granted, Even as late as last week. But there has been rumours in the market for a long time that imports were imminent. Why wasn't the Australian farmer informed over this period?

The logistics involved in this type of import involve months of forward planning and the vessel is on the berth in Vancouver as I write. It is obvious that the cargo was already set to come to Australia a long time ago, but only those in the know could prepare for this market moving event.

The stakes are significant, we are potentially importing the bio security issues that currently give Australia a preference into certain grain markets. Canadian Thistle, Karnal Bunt, GMO Corn and Soy can all be present.

They say the risk is "low", but is it worth it?

This comes at a time when the vulnerability of our biosecurity has never been so high, even the smallest slip up has potential to derail our billion-dollar industry.

There are rumours in the market that more Canadian Grain has been booked (without a permit), and the Department of Agriculture, Water and Resources have indicated that they are assessing multiple import permits.

The risks are all on the farmer, but the choice seems to have been made for us. This is our chance to have our say.

Let’s make some noise here and not take this lying down. Let’s be our own voice and make the government accountable, as it is clear no one is looking out for us.