[Photo: John Egan of Kialla Pure Foods: "We will pay a premium for grain that farmers store for us in the right aerated conditions"]
Maintaining a viable and reliable supply chain is worth paying a bit extra for. A successful organic foods business tells Rebecca Thyer.
Organic grains usually fetch about 25 to 30 percent more money than conventional grains, but an Australian pioneer in organic processing is looking to pay even more for organic grain that is stored on-farm.
John Egan, chief executive of Queensland-based Kialla Pure Foods, is hoping to encourage more organic farmers to build on-farm storage.
Mr Egan says this is necessary to ensure a reliable and viable supply chain. "We don"t want to overcapitalise by putting it all in the mill. So we will pay a premium for grain that farmers store for us in the right aerated conditions." Kialla Pure Foods will utilise that supply when the grain is needed.
The company is one of Australia"s biggest processing businesses dedicated solely to organic foods. It manufactures and sells bulk and value-added organic grain products to Europe, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the US - as well as to Australian supermarkets, bakery outlets and restaurants. It was established in 1983 by Darling Downs mixed farmers Graham and Sandra McNally, who decided to look for ways to reduce farming inputs and move to organic farming.
The organic farming model used by the McNallys is based on green manuring. "The two most important elements are organic matter in the soil and the soil"s biological life, or biomass," explains Mr McNally. "So our cropping regime is based around two cash crops, winter and summer, interspersed with green manure crops."
Today, demand for chemical-free products from Kialla Pure Foods (named after the home property) is increasing steadily, and in the past two years the com-pany"s grower supply network has doubled from 150 to 300, from central Queensland to the Victoria-South Australia border.
Mr Egan says the number of growers who have moved into organics has helped the company to maintain supply at a time when it might otherwise have been affected by poor seasons and lack of acreage.
To strengthen the company"s relationship with its growers, it recently created a new position, national grain manager, to service its supply network.
The widening spread of growers means that Kialla Pure foods is able to work with 20 different winter and summer grains.
While exploring new export opportunities for current products, the company is also expanding its use of ancient wheats - spelt and kamut. "They are taking off in popularity, especially for making bread and rolls," Mr Egan says.
He says that people who have allergies to wheat products can sometimes eat spelt products without the usual allergic reaction: "The market for this product is increasing by 50 to 60 percent a year, domestically and internationally."
The company is also developing new export markets for other wholegrains including soybeans and corn.