MAJOR canola purchasers CBH and Elders will not be buying GM canola this season, in a nod to the market sensibilities of major customers in Europe and Japan.
Europe has only just relaxed moratoria on buying GM canola seed and is unlikely to buy any GM this season due to a big harvest, while Japan prefers non-GM from Australia, even though most of its imports come from Canada, the largest GM canola producing nation in the world.
However, growers of GM will still have a market for their product, with large domestic crushers such as Cargill and Riverland buying GM crop, and marketers such as GrainCorp offering prices for the product.
It is expected there will be a $5-15 discount for CS01, which includes GM lines.
On Tuesday, a GrainCorp representative said the spread was $10/t, with CS01A, non-GM canola, on a base price of around $400/t, a discount of 2.5pc.
The pricing spread may effect non-GM growers nearest to sites offering the CS01 segregation, with reports that buyers wanting non-GM not wishing to buy from sites co--mingling GM and non-GM segregations for fear of contamination.
CBH regional manager for south-eastern Australia Georgina Whiting said her company’s decision reflected the desires of its domestic customers.
"At this stage CBH is opting not to buy GM canola, because we understand our domestic customers would prefer not to have it," Ms Whiting said.
"We deal with a number of dairy and stock feed customers on the domestic level."
She said this not reflect a conscious stance on the GM issue on CBH’s behalf.
"Overall, CBH is neither pro, nor anti-GM; we are a member of the Australian Oilseeds Federation, which supports market choice for growers."
Ms Whiting said there were markets for GM canola in Japan, China and the subcontinent, but that Europe was traditionally more sensitive to GM imports.
"We understand Europe will now allow GM seed for the first time this year, but will probably not need to import any, due to its big harvest," she said.
Elders Toepfer Grain canola trader Felix Mueller said his company was not buying GM due to European resistance.
"For export, GM is not workable," he said.
"You won't get it into Europe and I don’t think the Japanese are particularly keen on it."
He said Elders Toepfer was not buying GM, as there was sufficient non-GM to meet their needs.
Mr Muller said he thought the spread could open up further if there is no demand for the GM product.
As a major home for Australian canola, he said European considerations were crucial.
"Europe was the destination for 700,000 tonnes of Australian canola last year, although that is unlikely to be the case due to the good harvest there this year."
Mr Muller said Elders would review their position on GM.
"Once we can add value to marketing, which will be the case once Australia has an exportable surplus of GM Canola we will look at it, but not until then," he said.
Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps said the market was sending a powerful signal to growers.
"This market move shows the power of traders, processors and ultimately shoppers to dictate what products will be supplied but only when their preferences have some clout," Mr Phelps said.
He urged non-GM farmers to keep pressuring GrainCorp, the major bulk handler in the GM-producing states of Victoria and New South Wales, to retain GM-free sites.
"It is important to keep up the fight – the North American experience shows the GM giants will stop at nothing to ensure their products soon dominate the market."
Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) executive director Nick Goddard said the decision by CBH and Elders reflected market demand, and would not impact GM sales in a major way, due to the fact that the major trading footprint for both companies were in states where no GM is grown.
"They both have strong presences in WA and SA, where there is no GM grown, and they will do a large portion of their buying through these states," Mr Goddard said.
"Their decision will reflect their international customer requirements.
"Both Cargill and Riverland are offering prices, and with only an estimated 40,000ha of GM canola planted this year, I don’t think it is going to have a dramatic impact on the Australian market."
Mr Goddard said he did not imagine there would be a large spread in prices this season.
"With such a small tonnage of GM about, less than 10pc of the total crop, I wouldn’t imagine there will be a huge difference," he said.
"Over time, in a couple of seasons, you may see a spread, as non-GM demands a higher price in line with marketing options, but that’s in the distance and the market will call it as it sees it."