Minister praises Tamworth's durum researchers for string of successes

Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald has praised the work of wheat researchers at the Tamworth Agriculture Institute for efforts that have helped make Australian pasta some of the world’s best.

Mr Macdonald visited with researchers and technicians involved in the Institute’s durum wheat breeding program while in the region to announce funding for upgrades at the Department of Primary Industries’ research centre.

“All of the five durum wheat varieties grown in Australia have been bred right here at this Institute, making Tamworth the country’s durum capital,” Mr Macdonald said.

“The most recent Bellaroi variety was released in 2003 and last year received the Wheat Board “Preferred” export quality classification.”

Other varieties developed by the Tamworth team include Gundaroi (released in 1999); Tamaroi (released in 1998), Wollaroi (released in 1993), and Yallaroi (released in 1987).

Mr Macdonald said the DPI’s durum wheat breeding team led by Dr Ray Hare is in the process of developing another new variety which is yet to be named.

“This new variety has already undergone extensive testing by breeders and some commercial evaluation, and looks to be a promising crop that could be grown throughout much of Australia,” he said.

“If all goes according to plan, the new variety will be released toward the end of the year, marking another achievement for this very successful team – and for Australia’s hard working wheat growers.

“The durum varieties produced out of the Tamworth Agriculture Institute have helped set a new direction for Australia’s wheat industry – as they are now being used to create some of the world’s best pasta products.

“Durum wheat grown in Australia is regarded as world’s best by millers and pasta processors across the globe.

“More than 50% of Australia’s durum wheat exports now go to Italy, making Australia one of the top suppliers to this highly lucrative and quality conscious market.

“And, as results from a recent research project show, not only is our wheat top quality but so is our locally made pasta.

“A recent study led by Tamworth cereal chemist, Dr Mike Sisson, ranked Australian pasta just as good as Italian made pasta.

The study, published in the March issue of the journal Food Australia, was undertaken by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in conjunction with the Cooperative Research Centre for Value Added Wheat.

“Sensory and technical instrumentation found no significant difference between 15 dried Italian spaghettis and 9 Australian spaghettis.

“Those findings are a real credit to the ongoing innovations of our researchers, our wheat growers and Australia’s pasta makers.

“That kind of continued innovation is also what has made the Tamworth Agricultural Institute and its staff so well regarded.”

The Australian durum wheat industry was worth about $200 million to the Australian economy in 2004-05. Production has seen an 80 fold increase from 8000 tonnes in 1978 to 650 000 tonnes in 2003/4. More than half of Australia’s durum wheat is grown in NSW.

World demand for durum is increasing, and Australia is well-placed to capture a significant proportion of this growth.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Grains Research and Development Corporation are working together and with local growers to help push Australian durum production to one million tonne over the next 10 years.