WHILE the grains industry focus has been on news the Manildra Group will bring in high protein wheat to use in its gluten and starch manufacturing facility at Nowra, NSW, the livestock and feedlot industries are also looking at methods whereby they could bring in imported grain for use in their businesses.
Bryce Camm, president of the Australian Lot Feeders Association (ALFA) said his organisation, together with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) was working on a project reviewing grain devitalisation methods.
Devitalisation is the process of making grain seed non-viable, so they cannot be grown, along with killing insects, weed seeds and disease pathogens that may be present.
The imported grain that the feedlot industry wants to move upcountry must be devitalised to minimise the risk of a biosecurity incursion.
Stockfeeders can either bring in supplements or pre-processed feed rations or grain that has been completely devitalised, meaning the seed cannot germinate and there are no risks of weed or disease incursions.
The MLA / ALFA project is looking at the cost of the devitalisation process to see if it can be done economically on a commercial scale.
It is unlikely livestock producing consumers of grain in Australia will need to look to imported sources of grain in the immediate future due to good supplies of Western Australia wheat suitable for use as livestock feed.
However, Mr Camm, based on Queensland's Darling Downs, said his organisation wanted to do its research so it would be possible to bring in imported wheat to farming areas that have a local cropping industry but also have high grain consumption, such as his local region.
"Grain is one of the biggest costs in a feedlot enterprise, and with the drought over the past two years in Queensland and NSW we've seen grain prices rise to very high levels and at stages, before the supply chain sorted out bringing the WA grain across, it was difficult to source grain.
"We are not saying we're going to be looking to bring over cheap imported grain every year, but having access to imports would be a good risk management tool for our businesses in the event of drought.
Mr Camm said local grain producers had no cause to fear that grain imports would force out locally produced grain in feedlotters' rations.
"Australia is very much for the most part an exporting nation and grain prices are priced off export values the majority of the time.
"The situation of the past two years, where domestic demand has outstripped consumption in parts of Queensland and northern NSW is the exception rather than the rule.
"In most years Australian grain is going to be the most competitively priced for livestock producers, you're going to have to pay the freight costs of bringing it over and then the biosecurity protocols so we see this as something to help out in extraordinary circumstances rather than something feedlotters are doing on a regular basis.
The current import permit is for high protein wheat, which Manildra Group said in its application, is hard to source domestically, although some analysts suggest there it is still available.
WA had a big crop last year, which led to low protein, which means there is feed grain available, but little of the high protein wheat Manildra requires.
The MLA/ALFA project will look at existing and emerging methods of grain devitalisation to see assess their suitability to scaling up and whether the economics stack up.
As part of the devitalisation process, biosecurity requirements are that the grain seed is non-viable, all insect pests are killed, all weed seeds are similarly sterilised and cannot germinate and that all fungal disease pathogens are destroyed.