Durum's bull markey Stories by Guy Cotsell

Australian durum is rapidly extending its product range at home and abroad.

Australia's durum industry is on a record-breaking upswing.

Last year's production of between 320,000 and 350,000 tonnes was the highest ever, and exceeded the 300,000 tonnes identified by a GRDC workshop as the level needed for a viable export industry. The 160,000 tonnes exported was also a record.

In addition there is consistent local annual demand for around 125,000 tonnes. When Ground Cover went to press, dry weather conditions appeared likely to reduce this year's production and the amount available for export.

Ninety per cent of durum traded is from Canada and the USA, but Durum Growers' Association President Gerry Allen believes Australian grain compares very favourably with Canadian, which during July was traded at up to A$330-$350 per tonne at Canadian ports.

Mr Allen believes that Australian growers must obtain full export parity pricing in order to further expand the industry. But he stresses that to get satisfactory financial returns, quality grain is essential.

"Growers need to endeavour to produce quality DR1. Seasonal conditions will produce more than enough of the lower grades," Mr Allen said.

Good prospects in europe

After last year's success, Australian Wheat Board's Ron Storey says that this season (1997- 98) the market looks set to stay strong.

Mr Storey said European durum quality was poor this year and Italian millers were blending in Australian durum to upgrade their own wheat. He said the Canadian crop was down and there were problems in North Africa.

"The issue for Australia will be supply. There is some forward selling on the domestic market but domestic buyers will have to offer at least the world parity price to keep the wheat in Australia," Mr Storey said. "We have strong export interest from Italy for a consistent supply of quality Australian durum."

He said recent cash offer prices for DR1 quality had ranged A$210-235 delivered to local NSW silos (equivalent to around A$265-290 at dockside - which is the comparison to the Canadian figures).