Murwillumbah Primac Seeds Branch

Company: Primac Seeds
Date Opened: 1985
First Manager: John Hay

Murwillumbah Primac Seeds Branch history has been contributed to by these Primac Gurus:
Wayne Fischer
If you have information or photos to contribute to the Murwillumbah Primac Seeds Branch Timeline / History please use the form at the bottom of this page to submit it. All contributions are appreciated and will be acknowledged.

A little known division of Primac, was the Murwillumbah based, Primac Seeds. This featured article, extracted from Primac’s Annual Report of 1989/90, highlights the divisions activities, under the management of Mr John Hay and agronomist, Mr Bob Campbell.

Article kindly contributed by Mr Wayne Fischer

Primac Seeds
Primac Seeds was not well known throughout the Primac network. However, it was a strong contributor to the business and gave a degree of diversification to the merchandise division.
Primac Seeds was part of the acquisition of the JH Williams business. JHW had been in the seed business based in Murwillumbah for more than fifty years when Primac made the acquisition. Their seed business was first developed with the harvesting and exporting carpet grass seed from the river flats along the Richmond and Clarence rivers in Northern NSW. Many of us would consider carpet grass a weed particularly when it infests couch lawns. However, in the southern states of America it is considered a turf grass and used in lawns across the country. JHW took advantage of this and exported dozens of containers each year that was cleaned, graded, packed and shipped from the Murwillumbah seed shed. The export business grew significantly and distributers were set up across America, South East Asia, the Middle East and Japan with a focus, both on forage grasses and legumes and recreational turf varieties. Along with export they also imported rye grass mainly Tetila from America, which was distributed across Australia. JHW also played a big role in the development of the original tropical legume varieties such as Seteria, Siratro, Desmodium and Dolichos Lab Lab.

Primac acquired the business in 1985 and the name Primac Seeds was introduced to the marketplace. The business was managed by John Hay and supported by Bruce Williams, Peter Brown, Ian Johnson and Ashleigh ?. Bob Campbell was the agronomist and many of the Primac branch staff will remember Bob as he worked with them in recommending pasture seeds for their clients. A significant effort was put into further development of the seed business which proved to be successful, both at a branch level and import and export.

While the export business was conducted with sales to more than fifty countries, America, Japan, South East Asia and the Middle East were the largest customers. The export of carpet grass continued through our main distributor in Atlanta Georgia as well as some specialty turf grasses. Japan was an interesting market with sales of both forage and recreational turf seeds. Short season rye grasses were a big seller into the dairy markets in Northern Japan while recreational turf seeds were big business into the prestige golf markets across Japan. Our main distributor for Japan was based in Tokyo. Tropical legumes were the main sellers throughout South East Asia with carpet grass and recreational turf seed sold into the Middle East.

Importing seed was important with Primac Seeds acting as an importer for both Primac branches as well as a wholesaler to other resellers across Australia. Annual and perennial rye grasses were bought in from Washington State in America as well as New Zealand, quarantined and repacked or sold in original bags. Primac’s shareholding in New Zealand Agriseeds and later Heritage Seeds, gave good access to prime New Zealand cultivars such as Ellett and Yatsun rye grass seed. An arrangement was put in place with Taki Seeds from Kyoto Japan to both distribute their vegetable seeds in Australia as well as carry out trial work on new varieties.

Primac Seeds developed good relationships with both government bodies and key seed growers in Australia. One example was securing a licensing agreement from the CSIRO to produce and market Splenda Seteria under PVR both for sales in Australia and export. Splenda Seteria is still a widely used tropical grass in pasture development in Northern Australia. Annual and perennial rye grass varieties were grown for Primac Seeds by contract growers around Mansfield in the high-country area of Victoria and distributed through the branch and wholesale network.
While Primac Seeds didn’t become a major seed business, it was important to Primac in the 1990’s and it certainly gained major market share in a number of niche markets both in Australia and around the world. It is disappointing that after the acquisition by Elders, I understand that the seed business fell by the wayside after the effort put into its development by JHW and later Primac Seed staff. Contributed by Wayne Fischer

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