Thai hard line on glyphosate

Cally DupeCountryman

Australian farmers that dessicate with glyphosate pre-harvest have been essentially locked out of the Thai market after a shock zero-residue tolerance on imported feed and food products was publicly announced this month.

The Thai Government this month announced it would ban the import, trade, use and possession of three agri-chemicals from December 1, and eliminate maximum residue limits after a push from its National Hazardous Substances Committee.

The ruling bans the import, trade, use and possession of the chemicals, and puts in place a zero-residue tolerance on imported feed and food products.

As well as glyphosate, the ruling includes glyphosate and two other crop protection products, Syngenta’s herbicide paraquat and Dow Chemical’s insecticide chlorphyrifos.

Thailand is now the first Australian grain export market to both introduce a domestic ban on glyphosate, and change its import tolerances for chemical residues.

The announcement comes just seven months after Vietnam, Australia’s fourth-largest grain market, announced it would ban glyphosate and the use of glyphosate-based products next year.

However, Vietnam has not changed rules around the import of glyphosate or grain treated with it.

Thailand is Australia’s fifth-biggest barley customer and 10th-biggest wheat customer, buying an average of 432,000 tonnes of wheat and 168,000 tonnes of barley a year.

Between January and June, Australia exported 1070 tonnes of malting barley and 193,599 tonnes of feed barley to Thailand.

Rabobank grains and oils senior analyst Cheryl Kalisch Gordon, pictured, said the ruling had the potential to affect Australian crop exports to Thailand.

“The key point about this announcement is that not only is it a domestic ban of glyphosate in Thailand, but also a change to their import tolerances,” she said.

“It would only affect farmers that desiccate crops with glyphosate. This means any pre-harvest desiccation decisions that farmers might make are taken all the more seriously.”

Dr Kalisch Gordon said attitudes to farm chemicals in south-east Asia were changing.

“I do not think Thailand’s decision is inconsistent with other messages and announcements globally, and the increasing concern and litigation associated with the use of glyphosate globally,” she said.

“The concerns in most jurisdictions around the world at the moment is the impact of glyphosate on the operators and users of glyphosate in production.”

“That also, by extension, becomes a concern about having glyphosate in the food supply chain despite the science not at all indicating there should be a concern on that level.”

However, she swiftly denounced the trend, saying it was “public perception playing out in public”.

“It is a reflection overall of much more across all facets of our life, that public perception, social media, and populism is driving policy rather than science,” she said.

“This is consistent with that global trend which is much bigger than agriculture, and much bigger than us.

“It just underscores that despite the science doesn’t support the concern that is playing out in social media, the media, and now policy. Farmers do need to consider how they operate, what techniques they use, and that social licence is increasingly important in terms of production.”

In the US there are more than 13,000 lawsuits with plaintiffs claiming glyphosate has caused different kinds of cancer, although it is widely used in agriculture there.

WA grain trader CBH last year introduced segregations for pre-harvest applications of glyphosate on barley, with current premiums of about $5 a tonne on non-glyphosate treated barley.

The announcement sparked mixed responses from grain growers that had already sown their barley programs when the announcement was made in July.

Some growers welcomed the move to ensure market access, while others said it came too late in the season and without grower consultation.

At the time, CBH said the decision followed a review of its own chemical residue results and the National Residue Survey, both of which showed increased detection of glyphosate in barley samples.

CBH marketing and trading general manager Jason Craig said the trader communicated the changes with its growers as quickly as possible.

“The Australian grain in-dustry, including CBH, was made aware of Thailand’s proposed ban of several chemicals, including glyphosate, in late October,” he said.

“CBH sends regular communications to growers during the season and harvest to keep on-label chemical usage and declaration front-of-mind, to protect growers’ international market access.

“To ensure continued access to international feed barley markets with differing MRLs for glyphosate, CBH introduced a segregation in 2018 to cater for feed barley that has been treated with a pre-harvest application of glyphosate.

“We also retain a normal feed barley segregation which will be essential in catering for the Thailand market moving forward.”

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