FIRST up: I’m in no way opposed to foreign investment in Australian agriculture.
As many within the industry have noted, we’ve taken the current capital-raising model as far as we can, and we’re in desperate need of new sources of funds.
In time and done correctly, the proposed sale of GrainCorp to American grains giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) can be a real positive for our industry, but the current state of flux is not the time to rush a deal through.
Virtually all farmers in Victoria have said they feel there needs to be some sort of regulatory framework in place regarding the ports and ensuring no company is in a position to exert a de facto monopoly on port access.
This feeling is applicable no matter who runs our bulk handling assets, but a lack of certainty regarding future government policy on regulation of the ports means we should delay a final decision on ADM’s takeover bid.
The business sector opposes this, saying government should not intervene on shareholder decision, but given GrainCorp’s position in the market its sale impacts far more than those with a financial stake in the business.
ADM has made it clear it will abide by the laws regarding the GrainCorp business, but it's our job to make sure the appropriate checks and balances are in place.
Currently, it appears those pushing the sale are telling the farming sector to rely on the well known altruism of big business to look after producers’ interests.
I’m not one of those that think growers and agribusiness are automatically diametrically opposed on every issue, but equally, it would be naïve to advocate handing over a business like GrainCorp merely on a handshake and ADM’s verbal promise to try really, really hard.
GrainCorp is such a strategic business, with its domination of east coast receival and port assets and Government seems so indecisive regarding its position on port access that it appears most growers want to see any takeover deal delayed until they know what sort of framework ADM will be working in.
There’s definitely a lot of upside in having a company that has publicly declared its focus on capital expenditure and improving site efficiency in charge, but it is not something that should be rushed through while the nation is in election mode and focused elsewhere.