Stalemate over sugar
CANEGROWERS has left the ball firmly in Wilmar Sugar’s court following the latest round of failed negotiations over sugar marketing.
Grower representatives were furious last Thursday when Wilmar Sugar issued a media release announcing concessions it had made to growers – before the good- faith negotiations in Townsville had even finished.
Canegrowers’ Steve Guazzo said the media statement made it appear Wilmar had made considerable concessions when in fact the company had offered little more than what was previously on the table.
“We have clearly identified the two issues we want on the table as part of our moving forward. They are choice of marketing and a pre- and post- contractual dispute resolution process,” Mr Guazzo said.
“Wilmar has not moved on grower choice in marketing and they have offered growers no arbitrated pre- contractual dispute resolution ability.
“When Wilmar seriously wants to consider these issues, our door’s open.”
Mr Guazzo said Wilmar kept talking about the need for the company and growers to work together but did not seem to recognise this joint interest in its negotiation process.
“The way they performed their antics last week has added more fuel to the growing mistrust growers feel towards the company. And that will be counterproductive to Wilmar in the long term,” he said.
Wilmar said its proposal would see cane farmers’ economic interests recognised and an independent grower transparency committee formed to give farmers access to Wilmar’s Australian sugar sales.
Wilmar executive general manager of strategy and business development, Shayne Rutherford, said the company’s proposal was better than any other farmers received in Australia.
“We can’t give away control of our product,” Mr Rutherford said.
“No business can do that and survive, but in place of growers controlling our sugar sales we’ve offered a grower transparency committee that will get the sale details for every shipment of sugar that leaves Australia.”
But Mr Guazzo said it was insulting that Wilmar continued to tell growers they could not have choice in marketing, despite the Senate inquiry and code of conduct taskforce ruling this was needed to rectify the commercial imbalance against canegrowers.