Residue survey review to sharpen export focus

Changes are in the offing for the National Residue Survey to better assess the responsible use of chemicals in the Australian grains industry

A review of the chemical screenings undertaken as part of the National Residue Survey (NRS) is expected to recommend testing grains for a broader range of chemistries.

In a report to the Australian Grain Storage and Protection Conference in Melbourne in June, director of the National Residue Survey Ian Reichstein said a comprehensive review would identify whether the NRS was missing any compounds of concern, particularly any new chemistry.

Tribute to Geoff Honey

Photo of Geoff Honey

Geoff Honey at the Australian Grains Industry Conference in Singapore earlier this year.

PHOTO: Catherine Norwood

During the two-day conference delegates paid tribute to the leadership and insight of Grain Trade Australia chief executive Geoff Honey, who suffered a fatal heart attack while cycling in June.

GTA chairman Peter Reading said Mr Honey had been integral in building support for the National Working Party and recognising the importance of residue and storage issues in maintaining market access. Mr Honey joined Grain Trade Australia in 2003 after working with the trading subsidiary of Queensland bulk handler GrainCo. He helped to grow GTA, increasing its membership from five grain handlers to more than 260 members representing diverse aspects of the grain supply and trading chain, making it the leading industry advocate for market access and trade.

Mr Honey was also a member of the management council for the International Grain Trade Coalition, which works to facilitate commercial aspects of the 500-million tonne global grain trade.

He said there were generally three to five new chemicals released each year. With international markets becoming increasingly sensitive to residue issues, it was essential to ensure these were not overlooked. Changes are likely to be implemented for the 2016-17 NRS.

Mr Reichstein said that overall the 2015-16 NRS showed Australian grain continued to provide high levels of compliance with maximum residue limits (MRLs). The 2761 samples from bulk grain shipments tested had a 99.8 per cent compliance with Australian MRLs. An additional 2130 export container samples tested had a 98.8 per cent compliance.

However, meeting Australian standards did not necessarily ensure grain met the MRL requirements of importing countries, he said. Exporters were responsible for ensuring grains met import requirements and the NRS provides this information where the intended destination and its MRLs are known.

Mr Reichstein said the NRS has begun working more closely with the barley industry to ensure that sampling and analysis covered malting barley and feed barley for both domestic and export markets.

Consultations with Barley Australia and the Malting and Brewing Industry Barley Technical Committee will be undertaken to ensure a comprehensive residue profile is developed for Australian barley.

Mr Reichstein said this was partly in response to glyphosate residue identified in barley samples. Of 203 barley samples screened for glyphosate in 2016, almost half returned a positive result, even though there is no registered in-crop use for glyphosate on barley in Australia.

Conference participants agreed to form a working group to collate relevant information and identify information gaps about the effects of glyphosate residue on barley, including malting quality. This could support an application for a glyphosate label change for barley use. The working group will include all stakeholders in the barley supply chain, from grower representatives and grain handlers to exporters and brewers.

Recurring issues

Other issues the NRS identified included haloxyfop residues in canola. This was despite label changes that increased the application withholding period to reduce residue issues. However, Mr Reichstein said export samples tested were likely to have included grain from the previous year, before the label change was implemented. He said next year’s survey would be a better indicator of the success of the label change.

Contamination of grain with the fungicide flutriafol was also a recurring and increasingly serious issue, he reported. Trace-back investigations for flutriafol have identified contamination in transport vehicles, as well as on-farm contamination from augers, grain bins and storage silos used to move or store both grain and flutriafol-treated fertilisers.

Grain Trade Australia has received government funding, through the Package Assisting Small Exporters, to develop truck-cleaning guidelines to address the issue, which are expected to be completed before the end of the year. 

These will be reviewed by a working group of stakeholders, including the transport industry, grain storage and handling operators, and Fertilizer Australia. The aim is to include the guidelines in the industry code of practice for the management of grain along the supply chain, and for them to be applied as a general cleaning procedure, not just for flutriafol.

The annual National Grain Storage and Protection Conference was coordinated by Grain Trade Australia for the National Working Party on Grain Protection, which is supported by the GRDC.

More information:

Ian Reichstein,


Maximum residue levels need to be top-of-mind for whole industry


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