Growers ordering ‘three times’ their canola seed requirements to shore up supply

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Camera IconCanola. Credit: Danella Bevis

A well-known farmer says canola seed is in such tight supply that many growers are purposely ordering three times their seed requirements — sometimes from multiple seed suppliers — with the expectation just a third will arrive.

Shoring up canola seed supply in WA was a hot topic at Grain Industry Association of WA’s Oilseeds Field Day in Northam recently, with farmers, researchers and seed suppliers in attendance.

Coorow farmer Rod Birch, who farms 13,000ha including about 2800ha of canola, said canola was a “valuable tool” in his crop and he tried to stick to a plan.

He has placed his canola seed order for next year, but said he was frustrated by other growers who over-ordered on purpose.

“People wanting to cover their seed needs will drop in at Elders and put in an order, then drop into Landmark (Nutrien) and put in an order there, and then go down to another farm input supplier to cover themselves,” Mr Birch said.

“They are happy if they get a third of what they have ordered.

“I am not calling out other farmers, but surely there is a system to make it more honest.”

Mr Birch said there was an unspoken expectation that only a portion of what farmers ordered would arrive in time for seeding.

He said his order was regularly “cut in half”.

“Seed starts arriving in February, (and) what I find is that sometimes I will get told that the supplier is only getting half of what they are expecting,” he said.

“So instead of 1200kg, we get 600kg, that just rocks us.

“So sometimes I have a thought that if I put an order in for the next year, in June or July, shouldn’t I have been told?

“If I want 1200kg, should I expect to get 1200kg? Or should I know I will get half, because they (seed sellers) are trying to appease their entire customer base.”

Mr Birch said now was a good time to open debate on how to “bring a bit of sensibility” to the structure ahead of 2022 seeding.

He suggested a deposit could be paid on individual orders and said there needed to be an incentive to give a “clear signal to companies” how much seed farmers needed.

Mr Birch had a lot of positive things to say about new canola varieties, labelling the rapid “onset” both prolific and fantastic — saying varieties utilising Truflex technology gave him better “control” during the season than ever before. “We are looking at all sorts of different traits,” he said.

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