Academic journal article Rural Society

Experiences of Wheat Growers in Australia's Western Wimmera Following Deregulation of the Export Wheat Market

Academic journal article Rural Society

Experiences of Wheat Growers in Australia's Western Wimmera Following Deregulation of the Export Wheat Market

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the 1970s, global agricultural reform has been underpinned by neoliberal ideologies and deregulation practices have been extensive (Coleman & Skogstad, 1995). Agricultural industries in New Zealand (Cloke & Heron, 1994), South Africa (Van Zyl, Vink, Kirsten, & Poonyth, 2001), Canada (Coleman & Skogstad, 1995) and the United States (Skogstad, 1998) are now all extensively deregulated. Likewise, the Australian wool, sheep and dairy industries were deregulated over this period, suggesting deregulation of the wheat industry would be consistent with Australian and global policy trends (Cocklin & Dibden, 2002; Coleman & Skogstad, 1995). The shift towards deregulation in Australia, with its removal of trade protection and the exposure of agricultural industries to international competition, has been underpinned by an assumption that reduced government intervention results in increased growth (Dibden & Cocklin, 2010; Lawrence, Richards, & Lyons, 2013; Talbot & Walker, 2007). Within this context, deregulation is viewed as essential in repositioning agricultural markets at the centre of the Australian economy (Dibden & Cocklin, 2010). Subsequently, the ongoing existence of Statutory Marketing Authorities, such as the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), was cited as an impediment to competition, productivity, and efficiency. This eventually led to the removal of single desk status held by the AWB in 2008 (Banks, 2005; McCorriston & MacLaren, 2005, 2007). As then Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tony Burke argued, deregulation was necessary to increase competition within the export market, stating, "only then will returns to growers be maximised" (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008, p. 1774). Wheat growers, however, remained sceptical of such claims, fearing they would lose control of the industry and have difficulty competing in a global market (Irving, Arney, & Linder, 2000; Productivity Commission, 2010).

Indeed, the AWB was created to provide security to growers to counter the widely held belief that wheat farmers were being exploited within what had previously been a deregulated industry (Whitwell & Sydenham, 1991). Founded in 1939, the AWB became a Statutory Marketing Authority in 1948. This made the AWB the only permitted marketer of Australian wheat, both domestically and internationally, a monopoly arrangement often referred to as the "single desk" (Botterill, 2011; McCorriston & MacLaren, 2007). The wheat industry was further stabilised by the agricultural policies of the Menzies Government in the 1950s-1960s, before the election of the Whitlam government in 1972 led to major changes within the Australian agricultural industry in general (Cockfield & Botterill, 2007; Whitwell & Sydenham, 1991). Following the election of the Hawke Government in 1983, focus on government intervention in agricultural policy intensified. Inquiries initiated by government (Hilmer, Rayner, & Taperell, 1993; Irving et al., 2000; Royal Commission into Grain Handling, Storage & Transport, 1988), and government authorities (Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1987; Industry Assistance Commission, 1988) challenged statutory wheat marketing, contending this undermined industry efficiency, reduced grower freedom and choice, and prevented growers from maximising the returns on their wheat. Fundamentally, this body of work concluded the AWB did not provide growers with higher wheat prices than could otherwise be achieved in a deregulated export market. Ultimately, these arguments influenced the Federal Government decision to dismantle the single desk in 2008 (Botterill, 2011).

This policy shift remains contentious due to the reliance of many growers upon export markets. In 2014-2015, 71% of Australia's total wheat production (23,373 kt) was exported (ABARES, 2016). The proportion of wheat sold to export markets differs according to location. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.