Australia's agriculture ministry has asked whether New Zealand could supply livestock feed for its drought stricken farms.
If the inquiry comes to fruition it could see grain products shipped across the Tasman in a "coals to Newcastle" exercise.
The original question was about soya and maize meal, however as New Zealand doesn't grow soya, and maize production is very limited, the availability of lucerne nuts and grain is now being investigated.
South Canterbury Federated Farmers grains section chairman Jeremy Talbot said local barley buyers should take note of the reports.
"They need to offer us some firm prices now or get some on contract quickly or it won't be here when they need it in the spring."
Timaru was ideally placed to make any shipments, should they come to fruition, he suggested.
"Either in containers, or bulk; Timaru's got the facilities."
However, grain trader Chris Thomas of Ashburton Grain Consolidators pointed out substantial biosecurity hurdles would have to be overcome if any deal was to be done, and that stocks in New Zealand were tight.
"They'd have to shift the regulations to get grain into Aussie: you can't get it in unless it is heat treated. And I don't think there'd be enough (grain available) anyway," he said.
Federated Farmers Grains Council chairman, Andrew Gillanders, said he didn't expect Australia would be prepared to relax biosecurity regulations so the only way an export could progress would be if grain was pelletised.
"But before we start exporting grain or any other feed we need to be absolutely sure we can supply our needs here if we have a similar event; a drought or a snow storm next spring."
The fact Australia was even considering buying in feed highlighted the global shortage of commodity crops, he added.
"The gap between demand and supply has never been greater I suggest."