Asia explored

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Image of a man in a food processing factory

Deliveries being prepared in 25-kilogram bags.

PHOTO: Catherine Norwood

Ground Cover writer Catherine Norwood has been in South-East Asia interviewing traders and processors about the changing dynamics in this fast-developing grains market. 

There is a lot for Australia to learn about the different consumption patterns in these countries and also about grain-handling logistics, which range from some of the most modern facilities to hand-drawn carts.

In Indonesia, Interflour is the second largest miller and can produce up to 700,000 tonnes of flour a year at its Eastern Pearl Flour Mills, based in Makassar, the capital of the state of South Sulawesi. However, this flour is still delivered in 25-kilogram bags, even to large institutional customers. About 80 per cent of deliveries go via containers to Java, Sumatra and East Indonesia. Another 15 per cent are trucked to local customers on Sulawesi.

Customers on many of Indonesia’s smaller islands make up about five per cent of total sales and deliveries are still made by boats as no container vessels visit these outlying islands. This comes with its own set of challenges. It is essential the heavy flour bags are loaded evenly to ensure the boats remain well balanced; keeping the bags dry throughout the journey can also be difficult.

While many products, such as sugar, are still loaded into boats from hand-drawn carts at the port, Interflour loads its boats directly from trucks. This reduces handling, prevents bags breaking and helps to keep the bags as clean as possible. Only a few of the many wharves at the Makassar general port are capable of carrying trucks and capable of handling larger vessels (of more than 200 tonnes).

Catherine’s first report, ‘Noodle wheats vie for grower support’, was in Ground Cover issue 111, July–August 2014, page 26. Her latest report is in this issue: Asia asks: can Australia grow enough wheat?

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