GLA misleading: claim

15 Dec, 2004 10:00 PM
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THE propaganda war surrounding the Grain Licensing Authority (GLA) has intensified, with the Grain Pool accusing the authority of misleading growers about the benefits of the controversial marketing system.

In a brochure distributed to growers last week, the Grain Pool said the Grain Marketing Act and ministerial guidelines were being interpreted and implemented in a manner that was different to what was originally intended.

But GLA chairman Colin Mann rejected the claims and said the authority had followed the same procedures from day one.

"We firmly believe that we are implementing both the legislation and the guidelines as they were intended," Mr Mann said.

"And by doing that I think we've met the obligations of the state as far as the National Competition Policy goes."

The brochure, with the headline The Real Cost of the GLA, included claims none of the grain shipped under special export licences issued by the GLA had gone to genuinely new markets and many of the special export licenses were never used, making it difficult for the Grain Pool to plan pool tonnage.

"With 385,000t of feed barley licences outstanding, the Grain Pool has no idea if this year's pool will be 650,000t or 1mt," the document said.

But Brooks Grain WA state manager Phil Brooks said new markets had been found where he said the Grain Pool had failed to excel.

"Under the GLA guidelines marketers must attract new markets and provide premiums to growers," Mr Brooks said.

He said growers achieved premiums of $35/t over the pool last year.

"Brooks Grain has and always will strive to meets its export totals," Mr Brooks said.

"Applications for special export licences are accompanied by a fee, in some cases a quite substantial sum per tonne, which is forfeited if the licence is unused - so it is clearly in the export permit holder's interest to fulfil the licence allocation."

The Grain Pool brochure said the GLA was costing growers money, particularly in the Saudi Arabian market where existing customers had asked for discounts because they were aware of the possibility of alternative sources of supply for WA grain.

"This has already jeopardised Grain Pool's existing $US3-5/t premium that comes from being the sole source of WA feed barley," the document said.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) spokesperson Emma Field said the Grain Pool had an exclusive supply arrangement in Saudi Arabia with the United Feed Company, which had less than half the total imported feed barley market in that country.

According to a GLA report to Agriculture Minister Kim Chance in June 2004, there was plenty of additional room for other buyers for WA sell into the Saudi market without jeopardising that arrangement.

The brochure said growers, through the Grain Pool, contributed $400,000 annually, less licence fess, to fund GLA operations.

Ms Field said the $400,000 was paid by the Grain Pool for the exclusive right to hold the main licence for prescribed grains out of WA and, according to CBH's 2003 annual report, grossed $32m for this privilege in 2002-03.

In 2003-04, only $300,000 was paid due to the GLA not starting until the last half of the year, and the full amount would not be paid in 2004-05 because the GLA was required to return any money not spent at the end of the year.

Special licence holders also pay between $5000-$20,000 for each application.

Mr Mann said the GLA was under constant pressure from all players in the GLA market.

"It doesn't matter what decision we make, everyone comes out from their own position," he said.

He said it would have possibly been more appropriate for the Grain Pool and the other industry players to present their case to the latest inquiry into the effectiveness of the GLA being carried out by RSM Bird Cameron, which is due to present its findings to Agriculture Minister Kim Chance later this month.

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