Single desk: Eyes on the ball

What is the single desk? An apparently simple question, but one the grains industry has found impossible to answer.

When four leading grains industry figures have four different interpretations as to what constitutes the single desk, it is easy to see how rank and file growers have become confused.

The loosely defined 'single desk' can range from a strict model based on the old statutory authority days right through to ideas that for all intents and purposes are licensing arrangements.

It's time to move past the rhetoric and cut to the chase.

Does the marketer hold the right of veto in a single desk? Should that right be passed on to another authority? Who cares?!

The crucial issue, and one that seems be left behind in the debate is which model delivers the best returns to growers into the 21st century.

Instead of jostling for position to have their plans acknowledged as the one, true single desk in an attempt to cash in on the strong emotional links growers have to the system that served them for over 70 years, industry leaders to move on and address the real issue at hand.

The danger is that those supposedly leading the industry are so mired down in semantics that the leg work necessary to find the most suitable option is being left undone.

What do you think?

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


ray atkins
28/04/2007 9:32:24 AM

Hi all, I have been concerned for some time that the CBH board has lost sight of its core business: recieval, storage and transport/shipping of our grain. I also think they have forgotten who owns this cooperative and who they should be working to help, not hinder. Now there are some rumblings, suddenly they remember (a little bit). Not very happy, Cheers Ray.
Grain Farmer
2/05/2007 3:15:19 AM

An addendum to my previous blog: How can John Howard even think of leaving the wheat marketing arrangements unchanged for this harvest (07/08) when there are all these contingent liabilities closing in on AWB: * 3 class actions pending * $300m futures losses * declining pool prices making growers losses even greater * the Minister being sued by private trader * the general public wants to see AWB punished for its involvement in Australia's biggest trade scandal in history, not rewarded - even for this year. It is unthinkable that he would even consider such action after the losses that have been bourne by growers over the last two seasons. Margaret
lara wiggan
3/05/2007 4:37:53 PM

If a single desk is good for wheat, then should we not endorse a "single desk" to market all other grains, all livestock, wool, bananas etc etc...
Mark Greenshields
3/05/2007 7:20:52 PM

Gregor, I would like to congratulate SAFF Grains Council for being willing to take a stand on the wheat single desk debate that in effect singles them out from many other states. This doesn't mean that they are wrong. Australian grain farmers have become emotionally involved in something they don't particularly understand – marketing. Over the years we have become focused on production issues rather than marketing issues and now we want to weigh in on a marketing debate with little understanding of the modern world and what the best ways to market grain actually are. Once upon a time our current system was adequate and worked well but today we are dealing with a very different world. Australia is in a unique position in the world and we need to recognise this and differentiate ourselves from the pack if we are going to compete with the big new players on the world grains scene. We have the potential to develop specialist markets that offer premiums to creative and agile farmers and traders. We cannot do this well if our grain is being sold as a bulk commodity by a large single seller who simply cannot facilitate the level of differentiation required. Single Vision Grains Australia's report, ‘Towards A Single Vision for Australian Grain Marketing’, cites examples of how the single desk had not worked in the interest of growers who were attempting to develop specialist markets for durum and Japanese noodle wheats. In one instance in 1997-98 growers, through New England Agricultural Traders (NEAT), were able to attract much higher bids from Italian Millers for durum wheat than AWB were being offered, but AWB didn't allow NEAT to deal with this market. Apparently since April 1999 AWB has refused to grant bulk export permits to traders like NEAT. If we are going to extract premiums from the marketplace we need to be agile and creative in our marketing. We cannot do this well if our grain is being sold as a bulk commodity by a large single seller who simply cannot facilitate the level of differentiation required. SAFF Grains Council made the right decision. Mark Greenshields SA grain grower
Bob Scarlett
5/05/2007 11:15:44 PM

Well said Margaret Menzel. It's time to help AWB to their feet, a position they should never have left in the first place. If they were a US company we would never have heard about their so called misdemeanours, and it occurred well before Bush junior became President. Do you know it would have taken 240,000 B-doubles to shift that grain throughout Iraq following the destruction of their rail system in the Gulf War. What did we think they were going to pay the truckies with, peanuts. After all the $290m was Iraq's money ... and most importantly we weren't the only ones doing it. Single desks are a controllable, grain market power throughout the world and are a no risk identity to send your produce to. Break them up and its open slather with no added benefits and higher risk of getting your money. They would finish up competing with each other. Regards Bob Scarlett (an interested spectator)
Adam Smith
13/05/2007 7:44:31 PM

A woolgrower was recently lamenting what she saw as poor efforts to market Australian wool internationally by various parties. I pointed out to her that at least some were trying, but with wheat it was against the law for more than one to even try. New technology has allowed wheat production to make great gains; wheat marketing, on the other hand, remains stuck in the 1930s.
Grain of TruthRural Press grains writer Gregor Heard on the big issues facing the broadacre farmers today.


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