Report Synopsis

On Farm Storage and the Grain Supply Chain

Andrew Freeth

It is likely that Australian growers will continue to increase overall On Farm Storage (OFS) capacity and improve the quality and sophistication of existing infrastructure. This trend is currently being driven by:

  • Harvest logistics and increased harvester capacities,
  • Rationalisation of the upcountry grain storage network.
  • The increased area sown to pulse and specialty crops.
  • Government incentives to invest.
  • Increases in overall grain production.
  • Greater willingness of growers to have more control of their grain path to market following strong recent returns from selling grain ex-farm rather than through the Bulk-Handler system.

Growers considering investment in OFS should establish clear objectives, consider future needs and plan with potential expansion in mind. Long-term, the growth trajectory of OFS investment will be driven by the service offering from the commercial bulk handlers and also by the growth in domestic grain production and consumer needs. Managing relationships with supply chain partners is critical if growers are to effectively take on a greater role in the supply chain.

Australia’s lack of an effective freight ‘system’ feeding main line rail in Eastern Australia is a constraint on productivity for the grains industry. Australian East-coast below rail assets do not currently meet the needs of a modern grain supply chain. State and Federal Governments have a challenge to ensure policy settings exist to encourage efficient investment in the grain supply chain, including alternative funding sources to facilitate and fast track investment. The long-term future of grain logistics in Eastern Australia will be heavily influenced by the construction of a Melbourne–Brisbane inland rail freight link. Sub section construction timelines will be an important component of this project. Governments also need to consider market led road upgrades that safely enable longer road combinations and enhanced productivity on strategically important grain road routes.

The grains industry relies on fumigation with phosphine gas to kill stored grain pests with few commercial alternatives available. The future management of grain in store will depend on alternatives to phosphine gas for maintaining grain in a saleable condition. The industry needs to maintain focus on fumigating in gas tight storage that meets Australian standard AS2628 to maximise the longevity of phosphine as a fumigant. The best alternative strategy to fumigation is to:

  • limit the incursion of stored grain pests and by using good hygiene practices;
  • adequate monitoring and cooling grain using automated aeration systems, and
  • the use of grain protectants, subject to market requirements.

Systems enabling the use of C02 and nitrogen gas for fumigation will likely play a greater role in the future.