THE wheat industry is running out of time – and options – for what it wants its new export marketing system to look like.
Either it pursues the idea of an AWB demerger or it puts together a new single desk body from scratch and fast.
For most growers, the alternative to these is unthinkable.
The Federal Government has made it quite clear it expects a workable wheat export model by March next year – and “March” (unlike the forever extending deadlines of the Cole inquiry) means March.
Should industry fail, it would leave growers vulnerable to a push for full deregulation from a Government in the comfortable position of having the election behind them.
So with eight months to go, what is industry’s best bet?
AWB says it can make the deadline with its demerger proposal but only if grower groups get behind the only model it says will get shareholder support.
Pursuing another model – no matter what its merit – is of little use if at least 75 per cent of AWB’s A and B-class shareholders can’t be convinced to throw their support behind it.
Without that support, a demerger can’t proceed – and industry doesn’t have the luxury of time to give it a second crack.
Should industry push ahead with a demerger it would be unlikely to go to a shareholder vote before October/November at the earliest.
If it was then voted down, industry would be back at square one, with just months to develop and bed down a “plan B” - even allowing for the fact they are currently working on a variety of options and contingency plans
Like it or not, AWB’s B-class shareholders (and there’s plenty of growers among them) won’t give the green light for a demerger if it means giving up intellectual property, key staff and payment systems for nothing.
But the prospect of winning tenders under AWB’s proposed essential services model – and the chance to normalise the company’s constitution – could be enough to lure a “yes” vote.
As one letter writer points out this week, the worst possible outcome for growers would for industry to rush into setting up a new marketer with no experience, no orders and no capital backing behind it.
Better to try and discipline a seven year-old and modify its structure than endure the teething cries of a newborn.
* QUESTION: Do you think the wheat industry should pursue an essential services single desk operator, or go for a full services model?