Viterra's supply chain faces scrutiny

Trucks not sought as South Australia escapes Victoria's flood fate but agribusiness faces ire over harvest performance

By Rob McKay | March 11, 2011

While GrainCorp in Victoria is struggling to get the harvest to port, the same is not the case for Viterra in South Australia.

In the face of a record SA harvest only marginally impeded by recent wild weather and locusts towards the end, Viterra is not facing the same transport or trucking challenges faced across the border.

"In a record-breaking harvest such as we’ve had this year, ensuring efficient logistics and vessel scheduling will be to key in moving record volumes of grain from upcountry sites to port," a Viterra spokeswoman says.

"Viterra continues to work with all parties to identify opportunities to increase capacity and improve efficiencies in the transport supply chain.

"Export shipping this harvest has been at near record highs.

"In the four month period from November to February, almost 2.5 million tonnes has been shipped from the state."

With most of the harvest taken in by January, Viterra will not need to replicate GrainCorp’s plea for the supply chain to work smarter in the face of damaged rail infrastructure.

GrainCorp Corporate Affairs Manager David Ginns has said its customers face a lack of transport resources as Victoria’s damaged rail network pushes grain transportation to road carriers.

SA’s crop production for 2010-11 is a record 10.34 million tonnes, up from 9.36 million tonnes in 2001-02, the State Government revealed today in the latest Department of Primary Industries and Resources of South Australia (PIRSA) Crop and Pasture Report.

"While the logistics of handling such a big crop has presented industry with significant challenges, it is ultimately a boon for farmers and the State’s economy," Premier Mike Rann says.

Be that as it may, the SA grains supply chain will be looked into.

"Industry is . . . conducting several reviews, examining a range of issues including the science of grain classification, transport and bulk handling, with a view to make improvements in time for the next harvest," Agriculture Minister Michael O’Brien says.

Despite the strong showing, the agribusiness is in the political firing line, with bipartisan support for a House of Assembly select committee inquiry into grain handling.

The Canadian-headquartered company that is listed in both countries says it is conducting a post-harvest review following the completion of this season’s record harvest.

Viterra’s Post-Harvest Review Working Group last week announced the scope, Terms of Reference, and consultation process for the review.

And it is wheeling out some big guns to give weight to its deliberations

"The Working Group consists of senior Viterra personnel, together with independent members, Rob Kerin, a former Minister for Primary Industries and Premier of SA, Peter White, President South Australian Farmers’ Federation, and Dave Lewis, Primary Industries and Resources South Australia representative," the spokeswoman says.

Viterra’s post harvest review process will engage with key industry stakeholders, including growers and their representative groups, industry bodies, companies and government agencies."

She adds that the working group will give consideration to issues that influence the efficient operation of Viterra’s South Australian grain handling and storage network, "including but not limited to":

• Communication to growers and carriers during and before harvest

• Available storage capacity, including the number of segregations made available during harvest

• Grain classification, including sampling, assessment techniques (visual and objective), standards and classifier training

• Site opening hours and service delivery to growers and carriers

• Awareness of on-site safety procedures and protocols for all visitors to Viterra sites

• Harvest forecasting

• Information provision for the benefit of growers, including warehouse and quality data disclosure during 2010/11

• Any other factors that may have impacted upon service delivery to growers during 2010/11 harvest

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