PGA slams wheat levy call

28 Aug, 2007 09:00 PM
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THE Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) has continued its war of words on wheat marketing, taking a swipe at the Wheat Export Marketing Alliance (WEMA) last week.

PGA Western Graingrowers’ chairman Leon Bradley said he was disappointed to hear media reports which indicated WEMA was now asking wheat growers to make financial contributions towards a single desk fighting fund.

Speaking after a PGA Western Graingrowers committee meeting last week, Mr Bradley said the situation should be reversed with WEMA handing back to farmers the millions of dollars lost to AWB from last season’s national wheat pool.

The fighting fund is being used to bankroll WEMA’s administration costs including chairman Graham Blight’s reported $10,000 monthly salary.

Mr Bradley also questioned WEMA’s business tactics and its decision not to pursue AWB’s offer of a de-merged company to manage the national wheat pool.

He said it seemed as if WEMA was now more interested in keeping centralised control over wheat marketing than developing an actual business model for a grower owned and controlled single desk company.

WEMA has been given until March 1 next year to devise a plan that will satisfy the Government enough to designate control over wheat exports to that company from next harvest.

“WEMA seem to have dropped many of the characteristics that they used to describe as fundamental to the operation of a single desk,” Mr Bradley said.

“For example, WEMA now seem to be allowing for multiple sellers which would be an end to national pooling and the myth about the need for a buyer of last resort.

“Neither do they talk of massive premiums to be generated from the restriction they wish to inflict on the industry.”

Mr Bradley said WEMA also seemed to be proceeding as if it would inevitably get hold of the veto power on wheat exports that was stripped from AWB as punishment for the Iraqi bribes scandal and handed to Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran last harvest.

“In fact, at a meeting earlier in the year, which included leaders from all the farming groups including the PGA, Prime Minister John Howard categorically ruled out that the new single desk holder would retain the power of veto,” Mr Bradley said

“In fact, he did not rule it out once, but over and over again.

“Mr McGauran and deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile were at that meeting.

“The Prime Minister viewed unaccountability of the veto as the source of the problems in the wheat industry.”

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