Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 095 November-December 2011 - North
Agribusiness NOVEMBER -- DECEMBER 2011 GROUND COVER 25 policy of sticking with its long-term growers, even in years when their crops might have failed. This is partly because Ward McKenzie has strict quality standards and values the knowledge and experience of farmers who know how to grow a premium product. Factory manager Ian Gallagher says honesty is the critical ingredient in the relationship. "We have always been straight down the line," he says. "Growers will book up a tonne of peas (to sell) knowing that we will be competitive." Ian has been dealing directly with growers for more than 30 years after "learning the ropes" directly from David Ward. He manages the company's long-standing relationships with more than 100 pea, lentil and cereal growers, most based around the Victorian Wimmera and Mallee districts and the NSW Riverina and South West Slopes. An example of the close relationship is the recent collaboration with some growers to produce a novel lentil variety, which resulted in one of the latest additions to the company's legume range, 'McKenzie's French Style Lentils'. "Growers typically consult with us in relation to preferred varieties and we try to adapt to their preferences whenever we can," Ian says. "Over the past 10 to 15 years we have also seen significant volume and quality improvements linked to GPS satellite navigation in machinery and developments in equipment cleaning." Australia first Ward McKenzie upholds an 'Australian-grown' policy, only importing legumes that are either not grown in commercial quantities here or when poor seasons reduce local supplies. Overall, Australia exports more than 70 per cent of its pulse crop for both human consumption and animal feed. The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) shows that more than 90 per cent of Australia's chickpeas, more than 70 per cent of lentils produced here, about half the field peas and faba beans and more than 30 per cent of Australia's lupin crop are exported, although figures fluctuate in accordance with seasonal production quality and overseas supply and demand. The remainder sells in Australia, which traditionally has one of the lowest human pulse consumption rates in the world, while significant quantities of peas and lupins are used in the domestic stockfeed industry. Trade manager Mal Parkhill, another company veteran, is confident global demand for food -- expected to double by 2050 -- will create substantial opportunities for Australian farmers in the consumer market, given pulses' reputation as an affordable and highly nutritious protein. Mal anticipates people's growing health awareness will also drive greater interest in legumes and their high nutritional value. Ward McKenzie, along with other legume processors, has partnered with Go Grains Health & Nutrition to make people more aware of legumes as a rich source of dietary fibre, protein, vitamins (including folate) and minerals, including potassium and iron. The future Like her forebears, Helen Ward says the greatest challenge facing the family is to "keep the business going for the next generation". With the eldest children still in their teens it is too soon to know how the legacy will continue. But if the pragmatism and integrity that has underpinned the company's evolution and resilience is anything to go by, the familiar McKenzie's 'staples' will still be in Australian pantries for generations to come. "Like everything in the food industry, the future is difficult to forecast," Helen says. "So I am proud that after 160 years we're still here." □ More information: Melissa Clayton, marketing manager, Ward McKenzie, 03 9392 9155, email@example.com; for product information and recipes see www.mckenziesfoods.com.au and store grain for local growers, and deliver product to Ward's on demand." Richard transports grain to the company's Melbourne headquarters from within a 100-kilometre radius of Warracknabeal, taking in the foothills of the Grampians to the central Mallee. "Our business has grown in parallel with Ward McKenzie's," Richard says. "It's a win-win relationship built on trust and we're proud to be associated." □ More information: Don and Roby Leathbridge, 0428 590 323, firstname.lastname@example.org; Rob and Anthony (AJ) Heinrich, 0428 951 118, email@example.com; Richard Wilken, 0419 941 076, firstname.lastname@example.org WARD McKENZIE AND THE FARMERS -- A GROWING RELATIONSHIP "They took them, but then educated us on what they look for," he says. "Now, 99 times out of 100 when a truck leaves here we know that the quality will be right." Rob says the direct contact he has with the company gives their relationship strength. "McKenzie's call a spade a spade, but they're very approachable people and have always been fair," he says. The company was Warracknabeal grower Richard Wilken's first customer when he diversified into a transport and bulk handling business 29 years ago. Ward McKenzie continues to be a valued client. "This is a one-stop shop," he says. "We farm barley, peas and lentils, receive Don Leathbridge is pleased with this season's pea harvest but says: "WARD McKENZIE UNDERSTANDS THE ERRATIC NATURE OF FARMING AND THEY STAND BY US REGARDLESS." Third generation Mallee grower Rob Heinrich rotates pulses with cereals: "99 TIMES OUT OF 100 WHEN A TRUCK LEAVES [FOR McKENZIE'S] WE KNOW THE QUALITY WILL BE RIGHT." By Melissa Branagh-McConachy n Like any successful union, the relationship Ward McKenzie enjoys with pulse and cereal growers is founded on trust, loyalty and mutual gain. In an increasingly volatile marketplace, interdependence provides security. This iconic Australian company values consistent quality from its suppliers, while farmers welcome steady commodity prices and the assurance of a regular contract. Growers spoken to by Ground Cover were unanimous in their appraisal of Ward McKenzie, citing the company's empathy with them as the standout quality -- one which undoubtedly stems from the company's long involvement in grains and its appreciation of the risks associated with fluctuations in production capability. As Lalbert farmer Don Leathbridge puts it: "Ward McKenzie understands the erratic nature of farming and they stand by us regardless. We need them as much as they need us and we try to provide a consistent product that sustains this relationship." Don has been selling peas to McKenzie's for more than 30 years from the 2600-hectare southern Mallee property he farms with his son Roby and grandson Andrew. About a quarter of the property is sown to field peas within a wheat, barley and oats rotation. The field peas 'break crop' produces between 200 and 1400 tonnes a year depending on climate variability -- "the drought had a huge impact" -- but Roby says the Alma and new KaspaA varieties have delivered yield improvements of up to 0.5t in recent years, easily producing a 2.5t/ha average. Third-generation grower Rob Heinrich and his 21-year-old son Anthony rotate pulses with cereals on their 1500ha property in the Mallee, where they yield 1 to 3t/ha of Parafield peas and between 0.75 and 2.5t of red lentils (PBA FlashA and Nugget). Rob transported his first load of peas to the Ward McKenzie Altona factory 18 years ago, but the harvest didn't make the grade.
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