Barley industry looks to clear India weed seed hurdle

Barley industry looks to clear India weed seed hurdle

Cropping
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The Australian barley industry is getting close to being able to export to India but needs to overcome an obstacle regarding weed seeds.

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The Indian malt barley market is growing, spurred by rising beer sales. Indian consumers generally prefer a stronger beer, with alcohol by volume often in the range of 6-9 per cent.

The Indian malt barley market is growing, spurred by rising beer sales. Indian consumers generally prefer a stronger beer, with alcohol by volume often in the range of 6-9 per cent.

THE AUSTRALIAN barley industry is working diligently to help broker a deal on weed seed protocols with the Indian government that will enable access to a potential 500,000 tonne malt barley market.

A webinar hosted by Austrade last week heard that Australia had already won critical concessions from the Indian government which would allow Australian malt barley exporter to use phosphine to fumigate barley to reduce the risk of grain pests.

Phosphine is virtually the only effective grain protection product available in Australia and is the default fumigation treatment in all grain storages.

The issue is now to convince the Indian government to allow a certain tolerance for weed seeds endemic in Australian conditions.

Indian officials have expressed about wild radish and ryegrass seed in particular. The two weeds are considered to be the major two problem species within the Australian cropping industry and occur across virtually all major malt barley producing regions.

Fleabane is another major weed that is on the Indian government's hit list.

Australia has formally submitted that many of the weed species exist in India and should not be regarded as 'quarantine' weeds by India in terms of import protocols.

However, the officials have also indicated they are willing to work through alternatives in the interim to ensure the weed seeds do not spread into India's barley producing regions, including potentially having a requirement for the barley to be processed within a short distance of port.

This would work in line with wheat imports into Australia, where Manildra is allowed to bring in wheat for processing at its coastal Nowra facility on the provision the wheat moves directly from port to the facility, located in a non-wheat producing region.

Another possible banana skin is the Indian government's zero tolerance policy for ergot fungus.

The Australian government continues to argue for adoption of a ergot tolerance as per global norms.

While there is a lot of work to be done before the market can be opened up, the incentive is well and truly there, with industry officials estimating the market for malt barley imports into India is 500,000 tonnes and growing and that Australia is well placed to win a large proportion of market share due to the quality of our barley meeting Indian brewer and maltster needs.

Entry into the Indian market would offset some of the pain of being frozen out of China due to the imposition of restrictive tariffs.

However, it was heard during the webinar that unlike markets such as Japan that focus on quality India would be highly price sensitive and that price parity between local Indian barley and imports would be required.

With this in mind, Anirban Deb senior business manager with Austrade, based in India, said the major timeframe for Australian exports would be when the Indian market was low on domestic supplies through November to February and that in this period there could be a landed India value of around $A400 a tonne.

This is very suitable for the Australian industry, coming right in the middle of the Australian harvest, although exports will have to be dispatched relatively quickly to meet peak demand.

However, Nora Galway, Australian agricultural counsellor with the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, warned that any negotiations would take time.

"India is currently in the middle of the peak of its COVID-19 crisis, we've seen recent daily increases of 5000 cases a day, so it is fair that the Indian government's focus is elsewhere," Dr Galway said.

Tony Russell, of the Grains Industry Market Access Forum (GIMAF) said while there were challenges to overcome, past history showed differences could be resolved.

"We have managed in the past to seek a tolerance with trading partners, we did it with South Korea in 2013 with snails, setting up an industry management plan to combat the problem, and have not had an issue since then."

Traditionally India has purchased the majority of its barley from Argentina, while France has emerged as a big player in the last 12 months.

The story Barley industry looks to clear India weed seed hurdle first appeared on Farm Online.

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