In the past 12 months, the future of Australia¹s wheat industry has hinged on the outcome of Commissioner Terence Cole¹s report into AWB¹s involvement in the Iraqi kickbacks scandal.
With the report and its recommendations now publicly released, a decision on what to do with harvested wheat is looming for many growers who have warehoused their wheat while waiting for the dust to settle on Cole¹s investigation.
Despite opportunities to warehouse wheat and avoid financial risks associated with AWB¹s conduct in Iraq, this small band of growers has vowed to stand behind the single desk, unafraid of the consequences.
They believe the single desk system has served them well over a long period of time and warned the Federal Government against implementing long-term solutions to cure short-term problems.
Nungarin brothers Matt and Neil Smith said they had no hesitation about delivering their wheat to the national pool this year, despite the large degree of uncertainty facing AWB, including threats to the financial security of pool participants.
³We plan to deliver our wheat into the national pool and get behind AWB and have no hesitations about doing that,² Matt Smith said.
³We set ourselves up at the start of the year to grow noodle wheat because it suits conditions on our farm and provide us with the best return from the pool.
³We will not be delivering it anywhere else other than to AWB.²
Matt Smith said his family had supported AWB over a long period during which time the relationship had proved to be mutually beneficial.
³We have always delivered our wheat to AWB and have all the confidence in the world that they will continue to service us well and provide a premium price and give us market stability and market access,² he said.
³I don¹t believe that any of the other grain traders are capable or have any intention of doing that.²
Neil Smith said he was concerned that AWB¹s management of the single desk was being undermined by opportunistic grain marketers and urged other growers to be cautious when considering their options.
He was particularly critical of CBH¹s recent attempt to export two million tones of wheat to its Asian flour mills and apparently strip the national pool of almost half of this year¹s wheat supply.
³I am concerned, in particular here in WA where there is less grain to export because of the drought, that there are a lot of opportunists making a lot of noise at the moment and CBH is the loudest,² Neil Smith said.
³These companies are trying to white-ant AWB and force changes to the single desk and the parameters that it exists under so that it loses the power it has.
³It upsets me that this is being done to benefit just a few growers rather than the benefits going back to the majority under the system that currently exists.
³AWBI are capturing the market premium and giving it back to us and we want that to continue.²
Fellow growers Don De Lacy and Phil Herbert also joined forces in support of the national pool by promising to deliver their wheat to it at harvest.
Staunch supporters of AWB and the single desk, Mr De Lacy and Mr Herbert suggested a cautious approach to anyone opposing Australia¹s monopoly wheat export system.
³I¹m dead against CBH stuffing around the way they are,² Mr Herbert said.
³I have already told our local CBH director what I think of it.
³There¹s a fair bit of feeling about the place among local farmers at the moment over what CBH are trying to do to the single desk and the directors need to start paying attention.
³If they don¹t, there will be some serious trouble if there¹s not already.²
Mr De Lacy said he felt let down by CBH and believed their recent license application to export wheat was nothing more than a clever attempt to undermine the single desk.
³Why didn¹t the CBH directors come and meet with us and get an idea of what we all thought before doing anything,² he said.
³Every time you read something in the paper it¹s all about what CBH are going to do to destroy the single desk but the majority of people don¹t want that to happen.
³Have you ever seen anything about AWB trying to destroy CBH¹s bulk handling facilities?²
Fellow Nungarin grower Ron Creagh said CBH directors would pay dearly for their attempts to undermine the single desk.
³We voted for these directors on the basis that they supported single desk and now they are abandoning that,² Mr Creagh said.
³It is bitterly disappointing that when the crunch came, they have let us down.
³AWB is one of CBH¹s biggest and best customers and they should show them more respect.
³I don¹t believe CBH have worked hard enough to get along with AWB or to reduce costs on the supply chain that they promised because they have been too easily distracted and it makes me wonder what the hell they are really up to.²
Mr Herbert said he would be keeping a close eye on the Cole Inquiry findings, despite plans to deliver wheat to the national pool.
He said he was aware an immovable deadline was looming but growers need not panic.
³You would have to do what¹s best for your farm I suppose but at the moment I am putting my wheat into AWB and I am convinced that the authorities won¹t do anything just yet,² Mr Herbert said.
³If they are going to do something and make changes it would not be straight away, it¹s probably too late anyway but if there was a big crash I would be mad to keep going.²