National brand bid to lift wheat

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Australian wheat will be sold under a national brand this harvest in a bid to restore market confidence in the grain’s quality.

GrainGrowers technical services general manager Ken Quail said Australian wheat had faced a loss of identity and a slump in quality consistency since deregulation.

A recent survey of international markets conducted by the grain organisation found buyers were beginning to perceive a greater risk in buying Australian wheat.

“There has been some inconsistent supply of quality and some slipping of standards and several buyers thought they didn’t necessarily get what they thought they were buying, ” Dr Quail said.

“There hasn’t been a single voice for Australian wheat, and so you’ve had a lot of different companies that have been trading Australian grain but they’re trading under their company names.

“There is a loss of identity and differentiation of the Australian product. There’s a longstanding sense of trust in Australian grain and some loss of that has occurred in recent years.”

Dr Quail said developing an Australian Wheat brand would go some way towards demonstrating to the market that the grain industry was improving standards and allow Australia to maintain and develop higher value markets.

The aim is to apply the brand across major wheat grades, while working towards a position where grain meeting certain requirements will attract the Australian Wheat moniker.

But Dr Quail admitted keeping quality consistent across different states, grain handlers and traders would require time and effort.

Better industry training for grain traders and a return to grain payment based on quality were flagged as possibilities.

“An example of what we are keen to do with traders, where there are very mixed standards and levels of understanding of grain quality, is provide training courses to introduce them to grain technology so they have a better understanding of the product, ” Dr Quail said.

“It is complex but much of it is about how you set standards and apply them. We’ve returned to a system of cliff-faced pricing, which isn’t a good incentive for growers to deliver quality and we’d like to see a return to payment for quality.”

The brand will be supported by a central source of information for the Australian wheat crop, similar to the monthly crop reports from the US Department of Agriculture.

“We got a very consistent (survey) response that buyers were looking for a central source of information on Australian grain and in a way the brand will provide some of that opportunity, ” Dr Quail said.

The final report on the Australian Wheat brand will be released at the end of July and more information will be rolled out throughout the year.

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