GRAINCORP’S chief Alison Watkins had a good-news message at an Albury Club luncheon yesterday.
“I’m proud of the role agriculture has played in our national story for two centuries,” she said.
“I’m confident we are well-placed to resume a leading role during the 21st century.”
But it appeared that many in the audience were more concerned with the likely sale of GrainCorp to giant US global food-processing and commodities-trading company Archer Daniels Midland.
Ms Watkins was forced to spend more time answering questions on the transaction than on her vision for the future.
That vision included agriculture selling high quality, higher margin products with a supply chain that was one of the most technically advanced in the world, with total transparency and traceability.
These products would be clean and green and more produced with less.
Investors would love putting their money into Australian agriculture and governments would readily back agricultural infrastructure.
And to round it off, farmers would remain the most innovative in the world as farmers and agribusiness worked together to take innovative products and services to market, at high margins all along the value chain and, finally, agriculture would be a safe industry to work in.
On the issue of the sale of GrainCorp, Ms Watkins said the company’s board had a legal obligation to look after the interests of its shareholders.
The transaction has been scrutinised by regulating authorities and it made no sense for ADM to invest in the company and not promote its growth by looking after the interests of its clients.
But farmer and director of RSM Bird Cameron in Albury, Gerard O’Brien, was critical of her presentation.
“It completely skirted the main issue the crowd was here to talk about — the sale of GrainCorp to ADM,” he said.
“I was very disappointed and a significant number of people in the room would have been disappointed with what they heard.
“I have severe reservations about selling off assets to overseas interests, particularly where we have a natural monopoly involved.
“And many of my clients are confused because they are both a “downstream customer” and a “shareholder.”
But others in the room later told The Border Mail they were in favour of the sale.