THE BARLEY industry is working to douse controversy surrounding the interpretation of Grain Trade Australia standards regarding discoloured barley.
The wet spring has meant there is extensive black tipping of the barley crop across the east coast, but the problem is emerging as a major concern in Victoria.
The production sector was up in arms over the introduction of new segregations for heavily discoloured barley, such as that opened by bulk handler AWB GrainFlow in Birchip, which opened a ‘FX’ segregation at a $20 a tonne discount to feed one values.
The segregation has since been closed, following clarifications regarding standards from Grain Trade Australia (GTA).
Growers said the grain met feed one barley classifications and that discolouration was only an issue for malting grades.
The problems have occurred because some of the barley had been categorised as bin burnt or heat damaged rather than discoloured.
There are only subtle differences in the visual presentation of the two problems.
Grain Producers Australia (GPA) chairman Andrew Weidemann said the grain was not bin burnt, merely discoloured, and as such should be able to be delivered into feed segregations.
“The concern is that farmers will have otherwise very sound feed barley that they are forced to sell at a discount if this problem is not addressed.”
GTA held an emergency hook-up to clarify its position on receival standards earlier this week.
In a memo to industry, it said it was not able to alter receival standards during the harvest, due to existing commercial contracts, however it issued a clarification as to what constituted bin burnt and what constituted discoloured grain.
Since then Peter McBride, of Cargill Australia, the owner of AWB GrainFlow, said the special segregation had been closed and the vast majority of barley delivered into it would be reclassified as feed one quality grain.
“There was some confusion in the industry around the classification of the heavily discoloured barley, however on Monday the GTA standards committee made a clarification in regards to receival standards,” Mr McBride said.
“GTA have confirmed that it becomes bin burnt if the seed is exposed and has brown or black discoloration but other heavily discoloured barley will be graded as Feed Barley 1.”
While the issue has been temporarily resolved, industry insiders say the matter is not closed, saying they expect the trend of discoloured barley to continue as harvest moves south.
Mr Weidemann said the issue of visual assessment was a concern.
“We need to ensure there is a consistent interpretation of these standards and we also need to make sure things are assessed correctly.”
He said farmers were cynical about the sudden strict interpretation of discoloured grain.
“We understand colour is important in the malt classification but it is not an issue for feed, some feel like it is a push for traders to be able to accumulate barley for less and create their own arbitrage opportunities.”
He said that while the grain was discoloured it was not infected with any type of mould or fungus.
Wallup, west of Warracknabeal in Victoria, farmer Daniel Keam said it was disappointing to see black tipped grain putting his barley into feed segregations, but said he could understand that due to the importance of visuals in the malt sector.
However, he said he saw no reason why barley with otherwise excellent qualities for feed should be downgraded solely due to discolouration.
“It seems for now common sense has prevailed, but it will be something to watch throughout the harvest.”
The black tipping event is believed to be a result of the mild, wet spring.