Four WA wheat growers have taken themselves out of their comfort zones to urge their industry colleagues to support a more competitive AWB. The four farmers, Tony York, of Tammin, Shelley and Lance Ludgate of York, and Ron Creagh, of Nungarin, will be the face of a newspaper advertising campaign in the countdown to the AWB shareholders General Meeting on August 21. The group said they were willing to put their names to the campaign because they believed it was in all wheat growers’ interests to have a strong, competitive AWB operating in the deregulated Australian wheat export market.
Mr Creagh said he wanted to see AWB build the financial strength it needed to capitalise on its 60 years of experience in marketing Australian wheat. “I’m supporting the amendments to the constitution because the company needs to modernise its governance structure so it can access enough funds to buy our wheat for competitive prices,” he said. “I’m as disappointed as anyone that the single desk has gone, but the fact that it has gone only reinforces the need for us as growers to critically rethink how important institutions like AWB are positioned in the market place. We’ve got to give them every chance to compete as best they can.”
Shelley Ludgate said she was a strong supporter of the single desk system, but now that it had been removed wheat growers had to look to the future. “We need to ask ourselves: where to from here?” Ms Ludgate said. “I really believe we need to look forward and make a decision which will position AWB to be a strong player in Australia’s wheat market in the future. I think this issue of grower control was something sensible in a single desk environment, but it’s had its day and it’s time to move on.”
Lance Ludgate said the result at AWB’s February AGM demonstrated that there was strong grower support for AWB to get onto a stronger commercial footing against tough competition. “Last time 63 per cent of growers supported these changes – it seems incredible that we have supposedly grower-representative organisations and others in positions of influence, who should know better, trying to obstruct what is clearly the growers will,” Mr Ludgate said.
Tony York said he felt AWB’s board would continue to be destabilised by political influence if the current structure was retained. “We really need the best people on the board of this company, to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated, and that it thrives commercially in the future,” Mr York said. “If AWB is financially secure, well governed and able to compete it will increase competition for our wheat and provide continuing security for those who chose to market their wheat through AWB.”
AWB shareholders have until midday WA time Tuesday August 19 to have their votes registered for the shareholders General Meeting. Voting papers can be faxed to 1800 800 053, or growers can vote online at www.awb.com.au.
A photo caption of the WA farmers featured in this release is available on request. Please contact Paul Ryan.
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