Development Officer to help boost durum industry

Australian farmers are destined to play a much bigger role in meeting a growing demand from international markets for quality pasta wheat following the appointment of a durum industry development officer at NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) Tamworth Agricultural Institute.

This new role has been created to assist the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the Australian Durum Industry Association to reach their objective of increased national production and crop consistency.

Barwon Regional Director of Agriculture and Fisheries with NSW DPI, Bob Freebairn, today announced that Josh Gordon had been appointed to the GRDC-funded position at Tamworth.

“Mr Gordon joins a team of specialist durum plant breeders, researchers, agronomists and extension specialists already working closely with the durum industry,” Mr Freebairn said.

“His primary role will be to develop close links with key industry stakeholders, particularly growers, benchmarking crops and developing best management practise information.”

With this appointment there is a potential for significant production expansion in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, according to Mr Freebairn.

“Strong international prices and demand for high quality Australian grain has already led to impressive growth over the last six years, and now the industry has raised the bar.

“At a recent Australian Durum Industry Association meeting, the AWB Ltd indicated it would like to see a consistent one million tonnes for export in the near future.

“Mr Gordon will play a pivotal role helping farmers achieve these production goals and realise the subsequent benefits of accessing a larger market with a consistent product.

“This will be achieved by encouraging growers to adopt best management practices like crop sequencing, disease, water and nutrition management and growers will be able to make informed decisions on the best varieties to grow to reduce production risks and down-grading of grain at delivery.”

NSW DPI has had significant role in the development of the durum industry dating back to the early 1930s as the NSW Department of Agriculture, with breeding of durum varieties commencing in 1935.

Annual production prior to 1977 was in the order of 10,000 tonnes, but this has escalated largely through the breeding efforts of the Tamworth-based National Durum Program led by Dr Ray Hare. Dr Hare has bred four new durum varieties in the last eighteen years, including EGA-Bellaroi which was released in 2003.

"The breeding program had focussed on quality requirements for the competitive world market, colour being one of the most important aspects,” Mr Freebairn said.

“Australian durum is now regarded by Italian millers as number one or two in the world, with Italy and North Africa the main export destinations for the Australian crop. World demand for durum is increasing and Australia is well positioned to capture a significant proportion of this growth, especially the premium sector.”

Josh Gordon brings solid experience to the new role of durum industry development officer, having joined the NSW Department of Primary Industries in 1997 after graduating from the University of Western Sydney with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Systems Agriculture.

His most recent roles have been in the NSW DPI’s climate unit at Tamworth, technical officer with eastern and western farming systems projects and water use efficiency officer in the Hunter and Sydney Basin.

Media contact: Bob Freebairn, NSW DPI Gunnedah, (02) 6741 8376 or 0427 007 493.

Issued by: Annette Cross, NSW DPI Tamworth, (02) 6763 1243 or 0427 201 840.