ACCC draft determination favors Canegrowers
CANEGROWERS Proserpine manager Mike Porter believes a draft determination by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to allow collective bargaining in the sugar industry could be the catalyst that breaks the current on-supply deadlock before the February 28 sugar price nomination date.
On Friday a draft determination from the ACCC concluded that the lobby group Canegrowers can have a constructive role to play as the parties attempt to reach an on-supply agreement.
Canegrowers has invited Wilmar Sugar and QSL to a three-way meeting in the first week of February to move sugar marketing negotiations past their current impasse.
Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan, said the on-supply agreement was "crucial" to growers. "With harvesters set to fire up again within 20 weeks, it is time for us to step in and this draft determination from Australia's competition watchdog shows we have a legitimate role to play," he said.
Mr Porter agreed and explained changes to collective bargaining rules would facilitate the inclusion of Canegrowers in sugar negotiations when fixing a sugar price and also at negotiations between miller and grower when formulating cane supply agreements.
"The price of sugar determines the price of cane and if two parties in isolation determine the price of sugar then the grower is disadvantaged," he said.
"We sought the determination about that (on-supply agreements) but at the same token when putting our submission together to the ACCC we also... asked for some further inclusion on that (CSA negotiation)."
"The ACCC said we don't see anything wrong with that."
Mr Porter said from experience he thought it possible that the draft determination by the ACCC could force the breaking of the current impasse.
"When MSF negotiated their on supply agreement Canegrowers was part of those discussions. Grower groups representing the growers were present at those meetings and knew how the agreement was constructed," he said.
"Grower groups being part of those negotiations can be quite helpful."
A Wilmar Sugar spokesperson said "we'll be providing a written submission to the ACCC in response to its draft decision and await the final determination".
The spokesperson added that about 200 growers has signed 2017 CSAs which represented 2.7 million tonnes of cane and half the growers supplying the Proserpine mill.
Senator Hanson meets with Wilmar
Last Friday Wilmar met with Senator Pauline Hanson in Brisbane.
Ms Hanson last week spoke out against the milling giant and told Queensland Country Life "Wilmar is using this as leverage against our cane growers and are refusing to finalise a fair deal. At the end of the day, foreign companies care nothing about Australia or its long-term growth. Instead they only care about making a quick buck".
"This is not good enough. These cane growers are being held hostage," she said.
A Wilmar spokesperson said the meeting with Ms Hanson provided "opportunity to brief Senator Hanson on the status of Wilmar's negotiations for sugar and CSAs".