Stale­mate over sugar

Townsville Bulletin - - LIFESTYLE - LEANNE OLIVERI

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.

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