08/10/2020 - 06:30

Govt, industry seek to diversify grain

08/10/2020 - 06:30

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WA agricultural researchers will explore emerging markets for bakery goods and noodles and rice made from oats in South East Asia after receiving $2 million in funding from the state government.

Govt, industry seek to diversify grain
Alannah MacTiernan said the response to the challenging trade relationship with China was not to despair, but to make sure Australia was developing new markets. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

WA agricultural researchers will explore emerging markets for bakery goods and noodles and rice made from oats in South East Asia after receiving $2 million in funding from the state government.

The funding was awarded to the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre, and is part of the government’s strategy to diversify the agricultural industry, after deteriorating trade relationships between Australia and China have impacted on key exports to China, including barley.

Agriculture and Food minister Alannah MacTiernan made the funding announcement at the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia Forum last night.

“This new two year project will generate better understanding of the emerging bakery, cake and biscuit market,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“There will be further exploration of the novel [oat] rice and noodle markets, making oats something that one eats for lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast, and examining Australian wheat for use in wholegrain products in the Asian market.

“That’s the sort of value that we have to add to our product, the sort of value add that we have to do to keep that flexibility and agility.”

Ms MacTiernan said the response to the challenging trade relationship with China was not to despair, but to make sure Australia was developing new markets.

“We are working very hard to develop the new barley malt markets in India, working throughout South East Asia, [and] working with the Philippines, who are now taking much of our barley for feedstock,” she told the forum.

“While we know wheat is the big grower, we do need to be absolutely having a foot in variety of different camps and make sure we have got varieties of oats, of chia, of quinoa, and not to leave the pulses out, which are becoming increasingly popular.”

AEGIC chief economist and GIWA Forum keynote speaker Ross Kingwell said wheat and canola prices were high at the moment so farmers might choose to diversify into those grains.

Professor Kingwell said it would be transformative for the sector if oats could move out of the breakfast domain and become a lunch and dinner food.

“I don’t know how quickly that could occur but obviously Western Australia is very well-placed to grow oats of quality,” he said.

Premium Grain Handlers director John Orr spoke on the panel at the event and said his company was struggling to meet the high demand for oats.

“We actually struggle to supply sufficient tonnages of oats to the growing export market ,” Mr Orr said.

“One of the big challenges in fact is to make oats more agronomically appealing so improve gross margins at a grower level to become more attractive and maybe replace some of these [barley] hectares.”

The government was also considering strengthening WA’s value-adding capabilities, Ms MacTiernan said.

“We have got a very low rate in Western Australia, I think it’s only about 16 per cent of what we produce in the way of agricultural products that we convert to a processed state,” she said.

“That compares to I think around 77 per cent in Queensland and most of the other states have similar figures, certainly above 50 per cent, we have been a little behind in that regard.

“Possibly because we have been doing so well out of the commodity products but we do know if we want to drive growth in the regions, it’s going to be really important to get to more processing.”

At the forum, it was also announced that Ashley Wiese would be the new chair of GIWA, replacing Bob Nixon.

Mr Wiese manages a family farm in Narrogin.

He began his career as an accountant, before pursuing his passion of growing food on his family property which has been in his family for four generations.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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