Despite having crops already in the ground and the best prices for years, most cane farmers have not signed cane supply agreements with Wilmar because Wilmar’s proposed agreements deny farmers their right to choice in marketing. Singaporean miller, Wilmar, which owns eight mills in North Queensland, took out a full page ad in the papers last week, to complain about the poor publicity they are getting. But the publicity is completely justified. Wilmar’s ad did not mention its failure to negotiate an on-supply agreement with QSL and without this agreement, growers do not have the choice in marketing that Queensland legislated to provide.
Wilmar claims to be negotiating in good faith but facts say otherwise. Wilmar made details of their offer to QSL confidential, stopping QSL from publicly pointing out the unfair nature of the contract. But then Wilmar cherry-picked parts of the “confidential” proposal on Friday and emailed them to growers. If Wilmar truly believed it was a fair and honest negotiation, it would release ALL the details. When farmers asked for a seat at the negotiation table – after all, it is their livelihoods at stake here – QSL agreed but Wilmar refused.
If Wilmar does not give growers their right to choice in marketing, there will be action. If Wilmar continues its push to turn cane growers into peasants, they will force the hand of government and the Code of Conduct that has already been drafted will need to be legislated and enforced to ensure a foreign corporation can never ride roughshod over cane growers again.