Western Australian grain handlers crack down on illegal chemical use on back of high price for oats


Western Australian grain handlers are cracking down on the use of illegal chemicals on oats for crop-topping, in order to preserve strong export markets.

Off the back of high prices for oats, there have been substantial increases in production of the crop and, according to the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA), demand remains strong for export.

But there is concern some farmers might be using chemicals incorrectly, threatening the industry.

GIWA oat council chairman Will Carrington-Jones said it had prompted the association to work with some of the state's grain handlers to test for chemical residue this year.

He said Unigrain at Wagin would be testing all loads, as would CBH, but it was yet to be decided how the co-operative would carry out the testing.

"But [a breach of maximum residue levels] is the one thing that will just close that export industry down," Mr Carrington-Jones said.

Learning lessons from others' mistakes

Mr Carrington-Jones said the grain industry had seen other countries lose their export markets for traces of glyphosate, and it had shed light on the consequences for the Australian grain industry.

This will be the first year the grain handlers have committed to widespread testing.

In Australia, it is illegal to use glyphosate and paraquat on oats for pre-harvest herbicide application, also know as crop-topping.

Crop-topping is spraying crops with chemicals to kill weeds before harvest.

In Western Australia, any delivery of grain that contains chemical residues that are not approved, or that are in excess of the maximum residue limit, is a breach of a number of acts.

According to GIWA, "deliveries and sales of chemically-contaminated grain to exporters could be a direct breach of contractual obligations".

Farmers still using glyphosate pre-harvest

Mr Carrington-Jones said despite its legal repercussions, GIWA was aware of some farmers using glyphosate for crop-topping anyway.

"It's not widespread, it's probably individuals," he said.

"It is certainly not an area and a zone that are doing it, but we are aware that it is happening."

Mr Carrington-Jones said if farmers were caught using either of the chemicals for crop-topping, the consequences could be serious.

"I know Unigrain is looking to prosecute," he said.

"And we're certainly backing CBH in on that. We think that's the clear message that's got to go out to growers.

"If we were unlucky enough to find out a bulk shipload or container that had gone into whatever country had come back saying 'We've picked up glyphosate, we've picked up paraqaut, we've picked up low-gram in the system' then that's all going to be returned.


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