CANADIAN exports of durum wheat to Italy have come under fire due to the country’s regulations that allow desiccating durum with glyphosate prior to harvest.
Although it is not common practice, glyphosate is registered for use as a pre-harvest desiccant in Canada.
This is not the case in Australia, where glyphosate crop topping is not permitted on durum, although it can be done on crops such as canola and feed barley.
Buyers from leading Italian pasta makers have been strict on limiting the amount of glyphosate present on any imported grain, leading to a slump in Italian purchases of Canadian durum.
Canada is the leading international supplier of durum wheat to Italy.
One pasta maker was quoted in international media as saying the business would not buy anything with more than 10 parts per billion of glyphosate, a level that until recently was not able to be tested for.
Canadian producers have highlighted the difficulties in adhering to this low standard, saying it would only take an occasion spray-topped load to see a stack of wheat exceed that level.
Durum is not commonly crop topped in Canada but it is allowable.
Consumers in Italy have been some of the most vociferously opposed to the use of glyphosate and were central to a campaign that came within a whisker of having the product banned for use throughout the European Union (EU).
The home of pasta, Italy is unable to produce enough durum wheat to meet the demands of major pasta producers and imports grain not only from Canada but other nations such as Australia.
Chairman of the Southern Australian Durum Growers Association (SADGA) Alwyn Dyer said glyphosate was not registered for crop-topping in Australia.
“It is not going to be an issue for us as we don’t use glyphosate at that time of year.”
Mr Dyer said Australia had been a consistent supplier of durum to Italy.
“My information is that they would like to buy more Aussie durum it is just a matter of getting their hands on it.”
Victorian farmer Chris Kelly, who has been outspoken in his concerns about market access constraints caused by crop topping in other markets, such as feed barley, said many markets had a set against the use of glyphosate.
“You can argue the science does not support the view it is dangerous but the facts are consumers don’t want food that has been treated with glyphosate,” Mr Kelly said.
“We have to be careful that we remain aware of market preferences whether we like them or not.”