Comments made by Wilmar’s Shane Rutherford on the Queensland Country Hour today were selective and opaque.
Mr Rutherford claimed that QSL wants to (unrealistically) maintain marketing terms from the days of statutory marketing;
This is absurd because QSL has been operating in a deregulated and voluntary environment since 2006. QSL has no right over the sugar produced in Queensland, which was the key feature of the statutory marketing system;
Mr Rutherford claimed that Wilmar has offered to all marketers the same terms that the world sugar trade accepts.
Those terms are used by global FOB traders and not producer/sellers like the Queensland industry, which seeks to maximise returns and transparency to growers, through the industry owned marketer, QSL.
The key issue here is that growers who market through Wilmar would have an unfair advantage over growers who market through QSL. This is because Wilmar and its related companies would be able to package together and manage crushing, pricing and marketing services; enabling a larger window of time for Wilmar to undergo financial dealings on behalf of growers, relative to growers who market through QSL. Wilmar knows this and benefits from a tilted level playing field.
It has taken far too long for Wilmar to agree to FOB terms. This delay, among others, has given a clear advantage to growers who have signed with Wilmar and has put extreme financial pressure and risk on growers who have sought to exercise their legal right to market with QSL. This is not a method to secure long-term, loyal cane supply.
Wilmar has insisted that the discussion on the terms of the On Supply Agreement (OSA) must be held confidential. This is not consistent with the legal requirement under the Sugar Industry Act, to negotiate cane supply agreements between Wilmar and its growers for the 2017 season & beyond. Wilmar’s draft cane supply contracts refer to the OSA (by another name) and they have a direct bearing on the costs, the opportunity and the remuneration paid to growers; yet growers are prohibited from seeing the details of the OSA and from participating in the discussions.
Anyone who wanted to genuinely conclude a negotiation in a timely manner would not put up frustrating and contradictory obstacles like this.
Out of all of this, a clear picture has formed and politicians and regulators can see it. This is a picture of a global juggernaught, dug in with brakes fully applied; having to be dragged every inch of the way. It is exhausting and it’s painful but one thing’s for sure – the longer it goes on, the sharper its intentions come into focus and the sillier it looks.