No basis for Canadian crisis claims, say PGA

28 Jan, 2004 10:00 PM
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THE Pastoralists and Growers Association Grains has rejected Mr Wahlsten's claims that a free trade agreement between the US and Canada had devastated Canadian graingrowers.

PGA grains spokesman Leon Bradley said the Canadian Wheat Board would be foolhardy to jeopardise an export grain market with the US, their biggest importers.

A Canadian single desk monopoly, similar to AWB Ltd's, was to blame for the problematic Canadian grain market, Mr Bradley said.

He said Canadian farmers did not have the benefit of cost offsetting, service efficiency and international price competition with a single desk grain market.

"Canadian farmers have been prepared to go to jail for the right to sell their wheat over the border into the US for higher prices than those offered by the Canadian Wheat Board," Mr Bradley said.

"It's (CWB) like a lunatic postman delivering your grain.

"The first advance payments to growers last season had to be met by the federal government.

"The commercial restrictions and costs imposed on farmers undermine Canada's cost to produce grain."

Mr Bradley said a free trade agreement in Australia would open the door, not only for greater grains exports, but other commodities as well.

"We are essentially an exporting nation with agriculture and mining," he said.

"If a free trade agreement encourages a reform in a single desk grain market arrangement, then there's a greater opportunity for Australian meat and milk markets."

Mr Bradley believed the AWB created a cost disadvantage for Australian graingrowers.

"Within Australia we only have one buyer of export wheat," he said.

"The AWB is not a monopoly seller, it's a monopoly buyer who determines prices and conditions."

He said with more buying competition, there would be a reduction in costs and associated services and risk would be reduced for growers.

"I certainly see it as a necessity that the wheat market in Australia is modified," Mr Bradley said.

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