For the first time in the Manildra Group's 67 year history it will import wheat.
The company, which operates Shoalhaven Starches in Bomaderry was issued a permit for a single shipment of high protein Canadian wheat by the Federal Government.
In a statement, the Manildra Group said it had applied for the import permit in response to the two consecutive serious droughts throughout its catchment area which created a shortfall of high protein wheat.
The statement said "due to the worst drought in 116 years, high protein wheat is in short-supply which is critical to the Shoalhaven Starches wheat-processing plant.
"The permit will secure hundreds of regional jobs and the continuation of wheat processing at the plant," the statement said.
The permit was issued and will be managed by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) who will ensure strict biosecurity protocols are met.
The grain is set to be brought in via Port Kembla and then taken by train to the Bomaderry facility, a distance of 70 kilometres, through primarily non-grain producing agricultural areas.
High protein wheat is in short-supply which is critical to the Shoalhaven Starches wheat-processing plant. The permit will secure hundreds of regional jobs and the continuation of wheat processing at the plant.Manildra Group
Grain growing lobby groups have previously expressed concern over possible wheat imports, saying it raised the risk of biosecurity breaches but DAWR said it is was satisfied strict biosecurity protocols had been met.
Manildra said none of the imported wheat would go to its inland processing plants across NSW at Manildra, in the central west, Gunnedah, on the Liverpool Plains and Narrandera, in the Riverina, all in critical grain producing regions, minimising biosecurity risks.
The imported high protein wheat will be exclusively processed in the Shoalhaven into value-added products primarily for the export market.
The company said it had sourced as much high protein wheat domestically as it could, however there have been recent media reports that there are ample supplies of wheat remaining in Australia, especially in WA, following last harvest.
DAWR said it had assessed the risk of the imports and had found that the grain was sourced from areas assessed as presenting a low plant and animal biosecurity risk and that it had imposed strict movement, storage and processing controls within Australia as part of granting the permit.
It is expected the cargo will arrive in Australia in the next six to eight weeks.
Grain industry analysts suggest the current market conditions, which have dipped sharply this calendar year, mean it would not be economic to bring Canadian wheat to Australia.
Wheat imports are very rare in Australia, only occurring after the 2002 and 2006 droughts and in the mid-1990s in recent memory.
Other grain businesses will take note of the Manildra decision.
There are other import applications in the pipeline with a ruling yet to be handed down.
A DAWR spokesperson said the Department had received nine applications to import bulk grain from the US and Canada, covering canola, wheat, sorghum and corn.