THE MANAGING director of the Manildra Group, John Honan, has said imported Canadian high protein wheat is required to safeguard the future of the company's Nowra gluten and starch manufacturing plant.
In an open letter to farmers Mr Honan, whose company recently was issued a permit to bring in wheat from Canada, the first time Australia has imported wheat in over a decade, said there would be an ongoing requirement for imported wheat to be used at the Nowra facility until at least the end of the year, when new crop Australian wheat could replace it.
He said the import permit had only been sought because of the east coast drought.
"East Coast grain growers, from whom we traditionally source our high protein wheat, had a very poor harvest in 2017 and 2018," Mr Honan said.
"This has left a shortfall of high protein wheat."
The availability or otherwise of high protein wheat has been a point of contention, with some growers saying while supplies are well down on usual there are still stocks available if buyers search hard enough.
Mr Honan spoke up in favour of a more transparent stocks information system, a concept grower groups have been strongly in favour of, especially in the wake of imported wheat set to come in.
"We support the efforts of grain grower groups to introduce a transparent stock reporting system, to better inform supply and demand decisions by growers and buyers.
He said as well as the Canadian supplies, Manildra Group would also use available high protein Australian wheat at Nowra.
The decision on whether bringing in imported wheat is worth it or not rests solely on the head of the commercial entities applying for the permits, with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources issuing permits exclusively on the relevant biosecurity protocols being met, without considering Australian stocks or supply and demand.
Mr Honan said Manildra's preference was always for Australian wheat, and that it had supported the wheat industry as a buyer for 67 years.
He highlighted that the Manildra Group was still using exclusively Australian wheat at its three upcountry milling facilities at Gunnedah, Manildra and Gunnedah and that the company's domestic wheat logistics program is fully booked through to the end of 2019, sourcing wheat from across Australia to supply the mills.
He said the Manildra Group provided a solid source of demand for Aussie wheat, especially on the east coast.
"Manildra Group is the largest buyer of wheat in Australia and larger than most of Australia's export markets including Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia," he said
"Our demand accounts for more than 50 per cent of the east coast milling market, and more than 70pc of the NSW milling market."