27 May 2014
After over 12 months of negotiations, Wilmar has finally come out and showed their true colours with a blatant statement in a press release that “growers do not have any legal or contractual rights”.
CANEGROWERS and Australian Cane Farmers Association (ACFA) say it is exactly this mentality that has united them in the fight for the protection of grower interests against corporate entities which would strip them of it.
“If ever growers were looking for a rallying point, this is it,” says CANEGROWERS Chairman, Paul Schembri.
He says it has confirmed what CANEGROWERS and ACFA have known all along.
“While Wilmar was tying us up in supposedly good faith discussions, they were behind the scenes developing a far more sinister scenario for growers.”
The grower groups slammed accusations made by Wilmar that they had rejected models during negotiations which would have given growers what they are now fighting so strongly for.
“People try and rewrite the course of history to suit their argument, but the fact is CANEGROWERS and ACFA rejected Wilmar’s early proposals because they didn’t offer real choice and effectively stripped growers of their rights – a central tenant of every model and proposal put forward by Wilmar since,” says ACFA Chairman, Don Murday.
“Just because Wilmar called those early models ‘grower choice’ doesn’t mean that’s what they delivered. They should have been called ‘Wilmar’s choice for growers’ because they served the best interests of Wilmar, but they certainly did not serve the best interests of the growers,” he says.
Mr Schembri says that this tactic appears to be one from a miller under pressure from a grower uprising – a tactic aimed at distracting from the rising tide of growers who are taking the fight public.
“ACFA and CANEGROWERS united position is a future where growers continue to have a real choice of how to market their two-third economic interest in the sugar,” he says.
The idea that growers have two-thirds interest in the sugar is not new. In fact, Wilmar itself has pushed the point when it suited them, the grower groups say.
“In 2010-11 Wilmar demanded that growers share two-thirds of the $110M production losses that year, being their economic interest beyond the farm gate,” says Mr Schembri.
“But now they are changing their story to suit themselves and expecting growers to just roll over and let them have their cake and eat it too.”
Mr Murday says that the industry is deeply concerned about the broader competition implications of the proposal and says that the ACFA and CANEGROWERS has made a formal approach to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to flesh out these concerns. He says the growing grower backlash has escalated quickly.
“In seven days, over 2600 objections have been logged and hundreds more are coming in each day,” he says.