Major market unlocked for WA wheat

Posted by Josette Dunn on 23rd April 2010

The Western Australian grains industry has made a significant breakthrough in its bid to export wheat to Saudi Arabia.Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman said Saudi Arabia’s sole wheat importer had changed its tender specifications to allow Australian wheat to be imported into the country.

Wheat - Source: NSW DPI - Alf Manciagli

This news follows the Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia last year and a reciprocal visit in March to WA by the importer, Grains Silos and Flour Mills Organisation(GSFMO), to tour the State’s grain production, research and storage facilities.

“In the past, WA wheat has been ineligible for the Saudi market due to specifications for higher protein levels than can be produced here and a zero tolerance to the fungus, ergot,” Mr Redman said.

A recent tender from the GSFMO included lower protein level requirements and a small tolerance level for ergot.

“This change in specifications, which we hope will continue through future tenders, means Australian wheat now has an entry point into the Saudi market,” the Minister said.

“It is now up to the Australian wheat industry to compete for access into this market.”

Saudi Arabia introduced a new groundwater conservation policy in 2008 to reduce annual irrigated wheat production. The kingdom is substituting locally-produced wheat with imports through a tender process to satisfy an estimated annual demand for 2.5million tonnes.

Mr Redman said feedback from the GSFMO indicated the organisation was impressed with the WA grains industry and keen for Australia to become a regular supplier of wheat. WA was already a major supplier of barley to Saudi Arabia.

During the delegation’s tour of WA, the Department of Agriculture and Food research team showed how Australian wheat was highly suitable for milling and baked goods in Saudi Arabia, including flat breads.

“While this change in specifications is a first step, it is a significant one towards developing a strong wheat trading relationship with the kingdom,” the Minister said.

“I congratulate all involved from the Department of Agriculture and Food and the grains industry who have worked hard to improve access to the Saudi market.”