Search for fresh markets is part of the fix

Gary McGillCountryman
Barley ready to be harvested.
Camera IconBarley ready to be harvested. Credit: Cally Dupe

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA western grain growers committee notes the call by Grain Producers Australia chair Andrew Weidemann for the creation of a $20 million, industry-managed fund to help barley growers find new markets (Calls for $20m barley market fund grow louder, Countryman, April 15).

Mr Weidemann says the money that was spent in pursuing a World Trade Organisation process could be better spent.

The PGA does not agree with the disparaging sentiment expressed by Mr Weidemann about the WTO process.

He misses the point. The point is the process.

If we do not use the available mechanisms to hold our trading partners to account when they do churlish things, then we allow them do whatever they feel like doing, without consequence.

Rules are important, and pursuing a rules-based process shows that to be so.

Calingiri farmer Gary McGill.
Camera IconCalingiri farmer Gary McGill. Credit: Cally Dupe

The article says China’s decision to impose anti-dumping tariffs of up to 80 per cent on Australian barley imports stopped the trade.

Maybe to China, but not the rest of the world. CBH has recently opened a new market with Mexico.

Even Mr Weidemann admits that there are opportunities in the UK.

There is no shortage of barley in the world. Customers, as ever, will buy the best quality product they can afford.

The issue is not the amount of taxpayers’ money thrown about, but remaining competitive in a competitive world market.

PGA western grain growers shudders at the call for an industry managed fund to be developed to solve a perceived problem.

Are industry memories that short that they forget the failure of other industry-managed funds like the wool reserve price scheme and the compulsory tax on wheat growers known as the Wheat Industry Fund?

The fact is the international trade in grain has many participants. It is in all their interests to find new markets, and maintain old ones.

It doesn’t require a subsidy from the Australian taxpayer.

Of course there are always those who lobby for government handouts.

It is usually a case of an industry representative who has a good idea that they want everyone else to pay for because no one else will.

There is no shortage of barley in the world. Customers, as ever, will buy the best quality product they can afford,

Gary McGill.

Of course some have suffered some loss because of the Chinese tariffs. PGA western grain growers commiserates with them.

We hope the Chinese markets will be restored.

But we must be wary not to socialise these losses by establishing so-called industry-managed funds as a solution.

Doing business comes with risks, and doing business means managing that risk, not calling for taxpayers’ money to indemnify against that risk.

The PGA western graingrowers do not agree with Mr Weidemann’s comment that “the tariffs have devalued our whole crop”.

Instead, it takes a glass-half-full approach and suggests that Australian barley growers have a bright future in supplying high- quality grain for feed and malt purposes throughout the world.

Gary McGill is the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA western grain growers committee chair.

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