$20m boost for grain industry

The State Government will mark the 50th anniversary of the Dowerin Field Day by unveiling a $20 million boost for grains industry research and development.

Premier Colin Barnett, who will open the Dowerin event today, said there was potential to double grain production in WA through the development of new varieties and farming methods.

Mr Barnett said work on breeding high-yielding varieties tolerant to frost and able to cope with low rainfall was vital to boosting production.

The $20 million research and development project will be led by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA and includes setting up a new body known as the GrainsWestR&D network.

It is understood the network will encourage co-investment from the public and private sectors and has the support of the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Agricultural scientists will be based in regional areas and an agronomy network will work with grower groups and agribusinesses. The project will also target new markets for grain in Asia and the Middle East.

Last year's Dowerin Field Day marked a dramatic turnaround in what was shaping as another poor season for WA grain growers hit by low rainfall.

Heavy rain in the days before the event gave growers hope.

Favourable conditions from then through to harvest delivered a record crop and a massive boost for the WA economy.

DAFWA research shows WA has the potential to increase the overall value of annual grain exports to more than $5 billion.

Mr Barnett said though some parts of the Wheatbelt had missed out on rain, WA was on target for another bumper harvest given a reasonable finish to the growing season.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston and Regional Development Minister will be at Dowerin today and Cabinet will meet in Manjimup on Sunday as the Government turns its attention to the future of farming.

"Agriculture is facing its best opportunity for 50 years," Mr Barnett said.

"Things won't simply fall into our lap but the growth of Asia in population, urbanisation, increasing wealth and the broadening taste for different types of food create opportunities. A lot of other countries are completing for that growing market."

Mr Barnett said agriculture had to take a step up.

He said the Government was trying to build new markets and maintain strong ties with traditional customers.