GrainGrowers highlights danger of weight rise

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman
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Upping the hectolitre weight from 74kg/hl to 76kg/hl for milling wheat receivals would cost growers millions of dollars in downgraded grain, according to figures unveiled at last week's annual GrainGrowers conference.

Grain Trade Australia (GTA), the body responsible for receival standards for the Australian crop, has a policy to increase the test weight for wheat receivals next harvest, claiming it would improve Australia's international competitiveness.

However, growers and grower groups have largely opposed the move.

Last harvest, growers nationwide were urged to send in wheat samples to GrainGrowers to determine the quality parameters of the most popular varieties grown.

In WA, the most popular varieties grown were Mace, Magenta, Wyalkatchem, Calingiri and Yitpi.

When a hectolitre test weight of 74kg/hl was applied, 93 per cent of Mace made the grade, along with 93 per cent of Magenta, 100 per cent of Wyalkatchem and 96 per cent of both Yitpi and Calingiri. But raising that test weight to 76kg/hl revealed that significant amounts of grain would miss out on milling grades.

At a test weight cut off of 76kg/hl, only 82 per cent of Mace samples would have been accepted as milling grade, while the percentage of Magenta accepted dropped from 93 per cent to 76 per cent.

Calingiri dropped from 96 per cent at 74kg/hl to just 68 per cent of samples reaching milling grade.

Victorian grain grower Chris Kelly is one of three farmer representatives on the GTA standards committee.

He said he had not come across any farmers that supported the change.

"We're very concerned - we don't want to make a change that's going to be detrimental to the industry," he said.

"Will we lose customers (if it isn't implemented) - it's not been pointed out to us there is going to be x improvement to the value of our grain.

"I'm certainly not in favour of lifting the test weight.

"In the last five years we've seen a drop of up to $100/tonne in value for wheat that doesn't make milling standard."

Mr Kelly said figures from grain marketers showed that if the hectolitre weight was set at 76kg/hl, over the past five years "a significant figure in the order of hundreds of thousands of tonnes" wouldn't have made milling grade.

However, the issue may ultimately have little impact on WA growers, considering CBH's quality optimisation system means that WA's export wheat is already out-turned with a 76kg/hl test weight.

Grains Industry WA (GIWA) sets WA's receival standards and its chairman Jon Slee said CBH's move had by large appeased the trade.

"In WA CBH already guarantees an out-turn of 76kg/hl yet they receive at 74kg/hl," he said.

"That's a CBH decision, not a GIWA decision.

"We will still review the issue but in WA we don't see it as an issue."

However, speaking at the GrainGrowers conference, Michael Southan, GrainGrowers general manager of grower development, urged growers to make their views on the issue known.

"The proposed change to test weight will have an impact and I would urge you to raise it as an issue with grower groups and put in submissions to oppose it," he said.

"We're certainly going to be using data to show there are no benefits for growers and really as a receival standard issue there is no need to change."

Dr Southan said hectolitre weight had little to do with flour yield, which was instead determined more by grain size.

A decision by GTA is likely by July next year.

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