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Viterra faces angry growers

10 Feb, 2011 02:00 AM
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ABOUT 200 angry farmers fronted Viterra's executive staff last Thursday as they searched for answers to problems that led to silo confrontations, delays and storage inadequacies during the 2010-11 harvest.

They were attending a meeting held by the company at Tailem Bend to explain its plans for a post-harvest review.

The meeting followed widespread criticism about Viterra's decision to visually classify grain - instead of using falling numbers machines - its storage inadequacies and long delays at silos.

A number of farmers were involved in heated discussions, with one accusing Viterra of being "amateurish at best", while another claimed the foreign-owned company was looking out for the best interests of shareholders at the cost of a fair go for farmers.

There were also calls for Viterra to spend money upgrading its silo facilities and to install a higher number of falling number machines at all its silos and storage facilities.

Viterra argued that it would cost $5 million to install the machines at every facility, while the company's executive manager (grains) Dean McQueen said an investment in Viterra's storage network would be influenced by South Australia's transport network and infrastructure.

"Rail and road infrastructure is critical for our business to quickly and efficiently move grain to port," he said.

"This harvest, we have invested in sites with good access to efficient road and rail infrastructure."

And while the meeting revealed the extent of farmers' frustrations with the company, McQueen said the opportunity to be involved in discussions about harvest operations was "appreciated".

"We expect the meeting is the start of ongoing dialogue as we begin our post-harvest review," he said.

Karoonda Silo Committee chairman Graham Buchanan said the State's silo committees would meet with Viterra soon when grain testing would be the focal topic.

He said he would like to see a joint initiative launched with the Grains Research and Development Corporation to develop a testing machine that performed grading faster than a falling numbers machine.

"But my biggest concern at the moment is preparation for the coming harvest," Mr Buchanan said.

"We can't afford to waste too much time not making any decisions on extra storage and handling; it's got to be done a lot earlier than things were done this time."

Member of the Legislative Council Robert Brokenshire said he would move for a Select Committee to conduct its own investigation into the way grain was received and graded during the recent harvest.

He said the inquiry would be more independent and transparent than Viterra's and added that it was not about Viterra alone, but rather the entire industry. Mr Brokenshire also hit back at the State Government's recent decision to allow Viterra to complete its own review before considering the need for a parliamentary inquiry into the 2010-11 grain harvest.

"Letting a monopoly run its own review for several months and then [offering] the faint hope of a review by a Standing Committee is unacceptable," he said.

"We intend to have our Select Committee reporting by end of winter recess of Parliament so we can push recommendations prior to the next harvest."

Full report in Stock Journal, February 10 issue, 2011.

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READER COMMENTS

Grain Farmer
10/02/2011 12:43:04 PM, on Stock Journal

Can we have our cake and eat it too? We gave up ownership, and our rights when we let ABB take over Ausbulk on the back of ABB's name being the same value as Ausbulks infrstructure. Viterra aren't the problem- the people who profited from pushing this through are.
Realist
10/02/2011 3:25:14 PM, on Stock Journal

South Australian growers must get behind the blocking of the Cargill takeover of AWB Commodity Management in the ACCC and converting that company to a grower co operative. Only then will they see real grower influence in the supply chain.
screwed
11/02/2011 5:26:09 AM, on Stock Journal

Why do we expect a overseas owned monopoly to care about anything but their own bottom line?
Incognito
14/02/2011 11:46:04 PM, on Stock Journal

Vitterra conduct a post harvest review into themselves with a "secret" idependant reviewer,should do the trick and give the desired result. The farmers at TalemBend im sure would love to part of the post harvest review process. Sounds like the indepant reviewer could be a ex politician with connections in the right places!!!
Mallee Farmer
16/02/2011 6:02:32 PM, on Stock Journal

Spot on Grain Farmer. Same people complaining were the same wanting deregulation. It's all too late now. We have given away our infrastructure for short term gain. And now the same is happening with the farm. Did anyone see the recent article with Costello and Hawke over in the middle east drumming up some more foreign buyers for our farms? Qatar now own more prime land in Australia than the size of their entire nation which if my memory serves correct is 17000 square km.
Incognito
20/02/2011 7:39:22 PM, on Stock Journal

Disagree mallee farmer,ausbulk/abb merger was the catylast for deregulation. If the merger never happened SA wouldnt be in the mess we are in now. I for one pleaded with farmers to see through it all and vote no to the merger, what followed is history or a blunder....... Even the most ardent abb supporters can now see the error in there judgement, but its OVER.

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COMMENTS

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Agri-politics is heavily guarded by people who have made a substantial living
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Wait till the PPP comes in for Livestock- the dairyfarmers will be baying for the same -and they
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wylinga, yeah but they have subsidies, we are second lowest on that ladder?