Grow­ers push new deal

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Nichols

CANE grow­ers are push­ing for a sweeter deal as they face a more heav­ily con­sol­i­dated set of mill own­ers which threat­ens to in­crease the grow­ers’ vul­ner­a­bil­ity. This month the Cane­grow­ers or­gan­i­sa­tion re­leased a re­port that out­lined con­sul­tants’ rec­om­men­da­tions as to how the grow­ers can in­crease their caim over sugar be­yond farm gate

Cur­rently, mills claim own­er­ship over sug­ar­cane as it is har­vested and de­liv­ered to the mill. But the ques­tion of own­er­ship of sugar be­yond the farm gate has been put to the test in re­cent years. At is­sue is ti­tle to the grow­ers’ two-thirds eco­nomic in­ter­est in sugar, which the Green Pool re­port re­leased this month rec­om­mends be legally trans­ferred to grow­ers, say­ing it would give grow­ers the say they need to drive a vi­brant fu­ture for the $ 12 bil­lion Aus­tralian sug­ar­cane in­dus­try.

Cane­grow­ers says the in­sta­bil­ity of cur­rent mar­ket­ing ar­range­ments is hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on grower con­fi­dence and in­vest­ment. ‘‘If left unchecked, that kind of un­cer­tainty places at risk con­tin­ued grower in­vest­ment in cane pro­duc­tion and un­der­mines the in­dus­try’s long term vi­a­bil­ity,’’ said Cane­grow­ers chair­man Paul Schem­bri. ‘‘Gain­ing ti­tle over their eco­nomic in­ter­est would put sig­nif­i­cant bar­gain­ing power back in the hands of grow­ers, in a fu­ture where large mo­nop­o­lies would oth­er­wise dom­i­nate the agenda.’’

He be­lieves the tim­ing is right for all sug­ar­cane grow­ers to rise up in sol­i­dar­ity and as­sert their right to the le­gal ti­tle of sugar pro­duced.

Cane­grow­ers is back­ing a so­lu­tion where grow­ers have ti­tle over their share of the sugar, and can con­tinue to utilise the bulk mar­ket­ing power of grower- miller owned, Queens­land Sugar Limited, which mar­kets 80 per cent of Queens­land’s pro­duc­tion, lever­ag­ing sig­nif­i­cant out­comes for Aus­tralian sugar on the ex­port mar­ket.

‘‘ Cane­grow­ers says if large monopoly buy­ers were to take on pric­ing of large chunks of sugar pro­duc­tion them­selves, grow­ers would lose the trans­parency and as­sur­ance that they were achiev­ing the best re­turn that they cur­rently achieve through mar­ket­ing through an en­tity they par­tially own and con­trol.

‘‘In gain­ing ti­tle to their eco­nomic in­ter­est in sugar, grow­ers could con­tinue to drive through their grow­er­miller owned body, QSL, an in­dis­putable value propo­si­tion and re­tain in­dis­putable trans­parency. We will not stand by and be­come side­lined par­tic­i­pants in the in­dus­try.

‘‘We ex­pect the sug­ar­cane grow­ing sec­tor to stand shoul­der to shoul­der on this is­sue.’’

Chair­man of Cane­grow­ers, Moss­man, Drew Wat­son, told the Gazette that, ‘‘In the past the mills took own­er­ship of the sugar that was pro­duced from cane, but the pay­ment for that sugar to each farmer was a re­flec­tion of the world mar­ket price and pre­mi­ums achieved by our miller/grower owned sin­gle desk mar­ket­ing agent QSL.

Grow­ers shared the risks and re­wards as world mar­ket prices drifted up and down. ‘‘Re­cently there has been a con­sol­i­da­tion of mill own­er­ship in Queens­land giv­ing th­ese mills even more mo­nop­o­lis­tic power over grow­ers.

Th­ese big milling com­pa­nies have the abil­ity to do their own mar­ket­ing and by­pass QSL but grow­ers fear that trans­parency will be lost and mar­ket­ing pre­mi­ums will not flow back to them.

The Green Pool Re­port rec­om­mends grow­ers gain ti­tle to their eco­nomic in­ter­est sugar (un­der the pay­ment for­mula the sugar pro­ceeds are split about 2/3 grower and 1/3 miller) so that they can make their own judge­ment as to who does their mar­ket­ing and give grow­ers some abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate out­come. ‘‘The added ben­e­fit is the se­cu­rity that brings with the own­er­ship of the sugar.

For 10 years the Moss­man Mill faced eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties and grow­ers were classed as un­se­cured cred­i­tors, and so there was the con­stant un­cer­tainty that the bank could fore­close and grow­ers not get paid. Ti­tle to the sugar would have re­moved this risk.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.