Industry split over branding

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

The Grains Industry Association of WA has ignited a debate over a need to invest in promoting Australian grain in the international market.

According to its recently released 2025 Grains Strategy, many stakeholders in the grains industry support the concept of generic promotion and marketing of Australian branded grain products.

The strategy has been met with differing views from industry commentators, with PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke saying a campaign of this nature would not work in a deregulated market, and it would return no cost benefit to growers.

Mr Snooke said discussions with international buyers did not support the view that Australia needed to reinvest in any promotional campaign.

"A lot of motherhood type statements are embedded in this initiative, but never has there been a cost-benefit analysis presented to us," he said.

Mr Snooke said previous investments in global wheat marketing by AWB Limited prior to deregulation had also never been justified in terms of returning value to growers.

"Once again we were never presented with a cost benefit analysis from the AWB, and I don't believe that investment in marketing has had any legacy impact in the market place at the moment," he said.

But GIWA chairman Sean Powell defended the strategy document, saying it was simply a collection of industry views gathered from a widespread consultation process.

Mr Powell said a broad cross section of the whole of the grains industry supply chain, including traders, breeders, and growers, were invited to participate in the consultation process.

"There are a few within the industry that have a set philosophical view but we are not going to be constrained or limited by that," he said.

"Our role is to provide leadership, direction and co-ordination."

Newdegate farmer and Grain Growers Ltd director Trevor De Landgrafft agreed that any promotion campaign would be difficult in a deregulated market, but the concept would still be worth investigating.

He said the international reputation achieved by AWB Ltd pre-deregulation had now been lost, with so many traders now involved in the grain market.

"The grains industry has certainly been fragmented since deregulation - a lot of these things, such as marketing, were taken care of on our behalf prior to deregulation," he said.

"What we have lost since deregulation is the Australian brand for grain. There was an intrinsic value to this brand, but now the traders mix the end product and it's often not sold as just Australian grain."

But Mr De Landgrafft said it was worth investigating the benefit to the grower of any marketing campaign, saying a first step would be a look to the US Wheat Associates, the organisation that carries responsibility for marketing US wheat.

"I think we could invest some resources to determine if it's a worthwhile project. I definitely think it's worth asking the question."

Industry discussion on generic marketing comes at a time when the Grains Research and Development Corporation is reviewing its structure, with the possibility it will evolve into an industry-owned corporation.

As opposed to a statutory body, an IOC may then have the powers to invest in marketing.

GRDC Western Panel chairman Peter Roberts said the organisation, in its current statutory authority structure was prevented by legislation from being involved in marketing or promoting Australian grain.

Mr Roberts said under any new structure, it would be the growers who decided if they wanted the organisation to "be in this space".

"Having control over the end product is the difficulty in investing in any post farm gate market. How do you invest the dollar and ensure it goes back to growers," he said.

But Mr Snooke said any newly structured Grains Research and Development Company, operating, as an IOC, should not take on a marketing role.

"GRDC has enough problems on its own without going into marketing, it doesn't have the expertise," he said.

Mr Snooke said any promotional campaign would ultimately be funded by the grower.

"The producer will bear the cost, these bureaucrats that are pushing it, they are the beneficiaries from this, they will run it, they will be involved in it, it will be jobs for them and a cost for the industry and its not a cost we can bear."

WAFarmers grains section president Kim Simpson said while he saw some positives in investing in a marketing campaign, it should not be a cost impost on growers.

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