Exporters earn plaudits for inspection initiative

Photo of a stack of containers

Containerised grain exports will become more streamlined now that traders’ own staff can be trained as authorised plant export inspectors.

 PHOTO: Brad Collis

Grain exporters’ efforts to implement new, more responsive inspection services to protect and to expedite international trade have been formally recognised in the 2013 Australian Biosecurity Awards, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

It is the first time national biosecurity awards have been presented for plant export initiatives, with awards going to grain exporters Grenfell Commodities and GrainCorp New South Wales, and horticultural exporter CT Freight.

The companies are among the first to take up the opportunity provided by new legislation that allows their own staff to be trained as authorised plant export inspectors.

Assistant secretary of plant export operations at DAFF Kylie Calhoun says the legislative changes introduced in 2012 were the result of recommendations from the Grain Ministerial Taskforce that was established to identify efficiencies in the export supply chain, including inspection services.

While recent changes have also included full cost recovery for DAFF container inspections, there is also now provision for alternatives to government-provided inspectors.

Ms Calhoun says a focus on outcomes, rather than a prescriptive approach, allows new technologies to be used as they are developed, and allows industry to suggest alternative inspection methods and strategies.

Ms Calhoun says the companies receiving the 2013 Australian Biosecurity Awards had been proactive in their approach to new opportunities, training staff and incorporating new systems within their businesses, as well as providing feedback to DAFF to improve training.

With more than 500 locations across Australia registered as export packing points, where grain inspections may be required, Ms Calhoun says the changes provide the flexibility that allows businesses to undertake more timely inspections.

“We try to provide inspections within 24 hours, although it can be difficult, particularly for rural locations. The new system offers a more flexible approach that some businesses have been quick to capitalise on,” she says.

One of the first newly trained in-house inspectors, Trevor Mawhinney, a director of Grenfell Commodities, says the new arrangements make the supply chain much more efficient: “It’s a lot more flexible. We’re not waiting for DAFF officers to arrive to inspect our samples,” he says.

“In the container market, the deadlines with vessels can be pretty tight and the containers have to be inspected and approved before they are put on the trains to port.”

Grenfell Commodities is a family owned Australian company based in Grenfell, NSW, and has been involved in grain trading for more than 20 years.

Mr Mawhinney is now one of seven authorised officers within the business, who can sign-off loaded containers as export-ready. The authorisation is also sent directly to DAFF in Sydney, rather than going to a regional DAFF officer for authorisation, and then to Sydney.

Mr Mawhinney says while the container trade has temporarily dried up, with the strong Australia dollar and stronger local demand for grain, his business is exploring opportunities for bagged product in containers – primarily sunflower seeds, corn, oats, barley and horse mixes.

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