WE’RE five years or so into a deregulated wheat market, yet the spectre of the single desk still looms large over our industry.
So much of the system left behind still owes its origins to the monopoly that used to operate in Australia. With multiple exporters, its not surprising there is a need for change in many areas.
That’s why the decisions coming up are going to be crucial for the next century of wheat production in this country.
Things like stocks reporting, port access and even breeding need to be factored in to future policy.
The F=federal government’s mandatory code of conduct for port operators will soon be thrashed out – already the advisory committee formed to assist the government has made some recommendations.
It’s a fine line between ensuring a de facto monopoly does not open up, with those in control of the ports having disproportionate influence over the marketing sector and making sure that those doing the heavy lifting and investing in capital intensive hard assets are not unduly penalized.
For businesses such as GrainCorp, it’s a clear cut case – they are happy to ensure open access to their network to competitors, but feel the fact they have invested in the supply chain means they are entitled to hold a few trade secrets – such as stocks and quality information.
Growers, on the other hand, believe more transparent data would aid them in their own marketing program, but are split as to how much it would be worth.
Some even believe releasing too much data to the public would provide the trade with an added advantage and may even reduce marketing opportunities, but most believe having access to the same data as the bulk handlers would give them a clearer picture on when and how they should sell their grain.
Any new wheat marketing legislation will also have to ensure it does not encourage a cherry picking mentality among marketers.
With the majority of Australian grain now being sold to multi-nationals with the capacity for multi-origin purchases, there needs to be incentives to get them to invest in the Australian industry and try and maintain it as a brand, rather than simply another place to source a commodity.
There’s a lot to be done – not considering the fact we have barely touched on many issues such as breeding, industry good functions, and generic marketing of Australian wheat.
The urge is to rush through and ‘get something down’ – after endless rounds of talks it’s the natural impulse.
However, when we’re talking about creating a lasting framework for industry, its important to cross the Ts and dot the Is - so let's stay patient and hope the decisions made are what’s best for the industry.