EXPORT growth for Western Australia’s oat industry continues to hold steady at five to 10 per cent per annum, according to the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) Oat Council.
Oat Council chair and Narrogin oat grower, Ash Wiese, said for traditional oat growers, 10pc growth in demand per year was a good signal, but he urged them to adopt a conservative approach.
“As a niche market it is so easy to oversupply, and as we’ve seen in recent years, oat pricing can dramatically fall in years of oversupply. It means if you are planning 10 paddocks to oats in your program for 2019 you could add one more paddock,” he said.
Mr Wiese said WA oats had the characteristics that made it a sought-after product on the Asian market.
“Increasingly WA oats have a reputational point of difference in Asian markets for their brightness, plumpness, cleanliness and food safety standards, so the demand outlook for oats is positive. With WA annual production estimates ranging between 550,000 and 750,000 tonnes, we have to remember that oats is a niche product globally with only one per cent of the global grains market.”
At its latest meeting, the Oat Council also discussed the distorting price effect this season of drought conditions on the east coast and the agronomic pressure on oats as opposed to barley.
GIWA Oat Council member, Facey Group grower member and Planfarm agronomist, Hilary Wittwer, said if growers were able to achieve a good weed knockdown in an early break, it would be good for oat production in 2019.
“It depends how our agronomic package works with a dry start. Across the board it’s going to be a dirty start to the season next year with a significant legacy weed burden from this year. Preferred contracts and early price signals are a great way to reward the consistent or traditional oat growers,” she said.
WA oat receival standards for 2019/2020 have been tightened in response to market demand, with impending changes to WA Oat2 screenings and groat count for the 2019/2020 harvest (see ‘2018/19 Barley Receival Standards Limits’).
WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) National Oat Agronomy research leader, Georgie Troup, said the tightening of standards for 2019/20 meant there was a cliff face outside the Oat2 specifications.
“It’s imperative that oat growers choose a variety at the higher end of the weight spectrum. You have to harvest in the heat of the day and take sufficient harvest operator care that you are not thrashing the oats so hard you will increase the groat count,” she said.
Premium Grain Handlers’ John Orr said addressing on-farm hygiene and chemical residue contamination issues was critical for maintaining market access.
“We’ve had an incident involving chemical residues which originated from an auger that had previously been used for seed, and not properly cleaned, which caused rejection at a port in Japan,” he said.
“It’s important to make the point that chemical residues are tested in decimal points of parts per million so on-farm hygiene has to be extremely rigorous to ensure we don’t contaminate our grain destined for the food industry.”
GIWA chief executive officer, Larissa Taylor, warned advisers and growers of the negative impact of the potential for glyphosate residues in WA oats.
“Increasingly consumers are saying they don’t want chemical residues in their foods and are shopping for brands which provide trust and traceability,” she said.
“In-crop application of glyphosate on oats (dessication, or crop topping) is off-label and illegal. Glyphosate residues can potentially have a damaging impact on the WA oat industry.