Durum dream for the world

Northern Region

Northern NSW grower Doug Cush might occasionally be short of a few essentials like rain, and what he considers a fair price for the grain he grows, but he is not short on belief or ambition. He believes Australian growers are producing the best pasta-making durum in the world, and his ambition is to see pasta lovers everywhere recognise this … and pay a little extra for the privilege.

Matching his vision with money: Pasta maker Doug Cush believes Australia produces the best durum fl our in the worldMatching his vision with money: Pasta maker Doug Cush believes Australia produces the best durum flour in the world. Photo: Brad Collis

He admits it might be a "dream" but he is putting his money with his vision and has so far spent about $2 million developing his own pasta-making business and brand name, Bellata Gold.

Named after the district in which Mr Cush crops more than 4000 hectares, Bellata Gold is steadily gaining a reputation as a premium product among specialist pasta restaurants and the customers of gourmet delicatessens.

To meet the steadily building demand and, more importantly, to build the capacity needed to develop export markets, he has recently commissioned a pasta-making factory at Tamworth. It is a bold move by an individual grower trying to secure his own place further along the value chain, and in many ways it exemplifies the aspirations of the industry"s "Single Vision" strategy.

One of the goals identified in the strategy, released at Grains Week in 2004, is for producers, either individually or as groups, to look for ways to extend their revenue sources into the grains processing sector.

Mr Cush grows the new durum variety, "EGA Bellaroi"Variety protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994, bred by Dr Ray Hare from NSW Department of Primary Industries.

"EGA Bellaroi"Variety protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994 has been hailed in Italy as possibly the finest durum variety in the world. Dr Hare says durum has become a serious cropping alternative for growers anywhere with neutral to alkaline soils.

Durum has been around for some time, and was in fact bred by pioneer breeder William Farrer. It was allowed to languish because his other varieties were so successful.

The modern revival began in the mid- 1980s when it was realised just how much pasta was being imported. A subsequent production surplus in the early 1990s prompted an export program, which for the first time alerted the world, especially Italy, to the quality of Australian durum.

The Australian Durum Industry Association and AWB have indicated they would like to see growers producing a consistent one million tonnes a year for export. Some people believe an annual production of two million tonnes is feasible by 2014.

PBR Varieties displaying this symbol beside them are protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994.