WA growers want control

30 Oct, 2007 09:00 PM
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A FARM Weekly straw poll has revealed WA farmers’ strong desire to control their own destiny with a semi-deregulated export wheat market.

A majority 45 farmers who were contacted said they did not want to be associated with the Wheat Export Marketing Alliance (WEMA) which has been set up as a new entity to replace the Australian Wheat Board as the single desk manager.

And they are angry the future of WA’s wheat exports is being shaped mainly by domestic, market-focused eastern states’ farmers.

Frustrated grain growers said it is time to bring control of the trade back home to WA because they are sick of propping up the other states’ markets.

The issue was further fuelled last week by a report on the board by Exeter and Melbourne universities, published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, which said WA wheat growers had lost tens of millions of dollars since the creation of the AWB as a stock market-listed company.

In a damning reflection on the eastern states-managed AWB, the report said: “AWB Ltd has hurt producers compared with the benefits they would have enjoyed if no wheat export monopoly existed, largely because the company has spent more time focused on the domestic sector rather than overseas markets.

“The domestic effect of the AWB has ... in its current form led to a significant loss in social welfare in Australia of 16pc.”

But WAFarmers grains council president Derek Clauson said the result of the poll was vastly different to his understanding of the issue.

Mr Clauson, who was appointed WEMA deputy chairman last week, said there was overwhelming support for single desk marketing from WAFarmers members, and in particular for WEMA’s proposal to establish a grower owned and controlled co-operative.

Mr Clauson said this support was confirmed at WAFarmers’ Merredin zone meeting last week, where an almost unanimous motion was passed, supporting WEMA’s plans to have a grower owned and controlled single up and running in time for next harvest.

“Only one out of 40 growers in attendance was not in favour of the motion,” Mr Clauson said.

“One dissenter leaned towards deregulation and acknowledged what the majority had said after seeing a presentation on the benefits of WEMA’s proposal.”

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