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Adapting to Global Standards: The Australian Grain Industry's Path to Sustainability and Market Access

MEDIA RELEASE


5 July 2024

 

"Ensuring compliance with international MRL standards is essential for maintaining market access and the long-term sustainability of the Australian grain industry."

– 2023 Nuffield Scholar, Tessa Dimond

 

A St George agronomist has criss-crossed the globe to uncover insights critical for Australian grain growers to maintain their market access amidst demanding international standards.

 

Tessa Dimond, a 2023 Nuffield Scholar supported by GrainCorp, conducted an extensive study into the complexities of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for agricultural chemicals and their impact on Australian grain exports. Tessa's research explored the best practices and challenges faced by grain producers worldwide.

"The Australian grain industry is vital to our national economy, with 60-70% of our production aimed at export markets," Tessa explains. "Navigating the complexities of MRLs is crucial to maintaining these international markets, especially with the EU's aggressive stance on reducing pesticide usage by 2030."

 

Tessa's journey took her to Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Ireland, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In these countries she examined how different regions manage MRLs and their impact on trade. A significant focus was on the European Union’s (EU) standards and how Australian growers can align their practices to avoid trade disruptions.

Sugarbeat production in Poland


"The challenge lies in balancing Australia’s risk-based MRL framework with the hazard-based approach of other countries," Tessa notes. "Our industry must continue to prioritise sustainable farming practices and innovative technologies to meet these standards."

 

Tessa's research highlights the importance of precision agriculture and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in reducing chemical residues and enhancing sustainability. She emphasises the need for effective communication and traceability throughout the supply chain, ensuring that bulk handlers play a significant role in maintaining grain quality and compliance with MRLs.

 

"Major companies like Kellogg's and Nestlé are setting goals to reduce pesticide usage in their supply chains. Australian growers must adapt to these evolving demands while maintaining efficient food production," Tessa says.

CBH Port, Geraldton, Western Australia


Her report underscores the industry's commitment to aligning with global sustainability movements, such as the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Common agricultural practices in the Australian grains industry like minimal tillage, crop rotations, and variable rate application are essential to improve soil health and biodiversity, and help the industry meet diverse international standards.

 

Tessa's findings also highlight the critical role of the National Residue Survey (NRS) in supporting the Australian grain industry by providing independent testing and insights to reduce export risks. "The NRS helps us understand how to manage residues better and keep our reputation for high-quality, clean grain intact," she says.


GrainCorp’s General Manager of Sustainability, Mick Anderson, says Tessa’s research is highly valuable for growers, customers and the broader industry.

 

“GrainCorp’s role at the heart of the supply chain provides opportunities to work with growers and customers to explore ways to minimise chemical use while enhancing farm productivity and maintaining food safety standards and quality,” he says.

 

“Tessa’s research underscores the need for effective communication and engagement with growers to meet the different and often changing MRL standards, which is a key component of our grower engagement program.

 

“We’ve been really impressed with what Tessa’s achieved throughout her Nuffield journey and are excited to see where her research takes her.”

Tessa's Global Focus Program in Poland

 

Reflecting on her Nuffield journey, Tessa acknowledges the personal and professional growth she experienced. "The scholarship pushed me to overcome my fear of public speaking and grow into a more confident, independent thinker. It also made me part of a global network of agricultural professionals who continue to inspire and share knowledge."

 

Tessa will be presenting her research findings at the 2024 National Conference in Launceston, Tasmania, from 2-4 September, along with 30 other returning Nuffield scholars. To find out more and register to attend, visit https://www.nuffield.com.au/conference-2024.


Tessa's report can be found here



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