WHILE AUSTRALIAN exports of canola to Europe continue to fuel a billion dollar boom for the oilseeds industry there is mounting concern from growers about the onerous requirements needed to comply with exporting requirements.
Australians sending canola or barley to Europe must have International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) which is run by Sustainable Grain Australia (SGA).
The European Union has become our biggest market for canola while their demand for our malt barley is also growing sharply.
Grain Producers Australia has raised the alarm about recent changes to the ISCC scheme that create additional red tape.
GPA southern region director Andrew Weidemann said he was worried that Australian farmers were being subject to stringent EU production standards without having access to the subsidies that assist European farmers.
GPA was seeking clarification is also needed about the advice given to growers that 'some additions' to the ISCC requirements have been made due to changes in the EU biofuel Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
The major change is that growers are required to have a Biodiversity and Pollinator Action Plan and an Energy, Greenhouse Gas and Air-Pollution Management Plan in place, the email said.
Mr Weidemann said the controversy with the scheme highlighted need for a local certification scheme.
"The current issues reinforce GPA's views about the need to develop an Australian-owned and controlled certification scheme to protect grower interests and capture value from existing sustainability practices," he said.
GPA chair, Barry Large, also had concerns about the email from SGA, in particular the push to broaden the scheme to trade all grain as sustainable.
"SGA started as a way for growers to only sell Australian canola certified as 'sustainable' to the EU, but has now been expanded again to all grains," Mr Large said.
"This has happened without prior notice and proper consultation with GPA members who have expressed repeated concerns about gradual escalation," he said.
Mr Large raised the possibility of running a local sustainability scheme through an organisation such as industry good body Grains Australia.
"Grains Australia is the logical home for such a scheme to be managed with grower and industry oversight, to ensure it is guided by sound science backed by independent regulation - not populist opinion - and reflects the unique climate and requirements of Australian farming systems.
He said his major concern was that European bureaucrats were becoming the de facto administrators of Australian farming practices via the ISCC, with growers needing to stick to the rules in order to do business with the EU.
"If you actually look at the detail of these documents mentioned on the email, they're actually asking local growers to sign-up to EU rules such as setting aside areas to increase and enhance the protection of pollinators, which has to be at least 5pc of the farm's arable area," he said.
He also said the Australian grains sector needed to think about the bigger picture with sustainability.
"In the current context of the political debate about sustainability and net zero 2050, and whether our farmers can be properly rewarded and acknowledged for doing the heavy lifting already on climate targets, any changes require far more detail and transparency," Mr Large said.
In terms of advice for growers, Mr Large said growers needed to be comfortable with the additional paperwork and that they should consider whether they felt the extra work was worth it.
However, the lure of the European market is proving hard for the industry to refuse.
Australian Oilseeds Federation chief executive officer Nick Goddard said a large proportion of this year's Australian crop, virtually certain to be the largest on record, will head to the EU.
Mr Goddard said last season, just on 2.5 million tonnes of canola. valued at A$1.66 billion, was traded as ISCC certified into the EU biodiesel market.
He said he did not think the changes to the ISCC scheme would be particularly onerous.
"With canola as a pollinator crop, Australian canola growers naturally meet this new requirement," Mr Goddard said.
"Australian growers are well ahead of many countries where monoculture still dominates the grain growing landscape," he said.
For the 12 months to June 2021, the EU accounted for 78 per cent of Australia's canola exports, valued at A$1.66 billion.
With the coming record harvest, ongoing strong demand from Europe, and unprecedented prices, Europe is likely to consume an even greater proportion of Australia's certified sustainable canola exports, delivering value likely to be in excess of A$3 billion back to Australian farmer's pockets.
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