Want to send grain directly to market? You've got to get pest control right

THE HOLY Grail of the least-cost supply chain has been a challenge in export marketing for years.

It can be achieved only when the current benefits of the centralised system are recognised and built into a direct supply system, according to grain industry consultant Barry Bridgeman.

Pest control in particular is a safeguard that needs to be built into the direct supply chain for grain to be accepted at ports. Achieving the required level of control can actually eat up the savings found in a direct supply system.

Mr Bridgeman told the conference that the bottom line is that all grain should be considered infested unless it is being fumigated now. Insects can breed so quickly that an infestation can explode from less than a single insect per tonne to over 100 per tonne (detectable levels) in about 60 days.

Conveniently, 60 days is about the time it can take grain to be shipped to markets. The centralised handling system has managed pest control accordingly. It is simply harder to get the timing right, and the level of pest control needed, in a direct supply system that relies on on-farm storage.

Direct supply means on-farm storages may need upgrading

The big problem is that a failure to detect insects at intake or loading does not mean the bulk grain is insect-free. The insects are there, but their numbers are too diluted to be detected.

To effectively control insect infestations, on-farm storages may need upgrading. Sealing and aeration are essential to effectively store grain on-farm in the long term, but upgrading farm storage is difficult and expensive. Also, silos should really be fitted with an active fumigation system and professional fumigators used. An alternative is for growers doing their own pest control to get accreditation.

Mr Bridgeman said that, in addition to upgrading on-farm infrastructure, the technical know-how and quality issues for storing grain are important. Often simple errors can cause serious damage to valuable grain. In many cases the total cost will be in excess of the savings achieved by utilising the least-cost pathway.

He said it is possible to make the direct supply chain perform as well as the central system and provide a series of benefits that would give a distinct advantage. Documentation through the entire supply chain process will be essential. It is seen as the only way to obtain the quality assurance, probably to a HACCP*-based standard, that will be required by future markets.

If these obstacles are effectively overcome, then it is expected that the direct supply chain will be the system of choice.

* Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point

Contact: Mr Barry Bridgeman 07 4630 3418 email barry.bridgeman@bigpond.com

Region North, South, West