17 April 1998
Australian wheat industry gets an overhaul

THE Australian Wheat Board (AWB) – the countrys Government-protected monopoly grains exporter – plans to close offices and cut staff.

It is the most dramatic reorganisation since the Australian domestic wheat market was deregulated more than 10 years ago, and has caused major upheaval.

But AWB managing director Murray Rogers says the organisation will be “leaner and meaner” once it is over and better equipped to adapt to fluctuations in the global marketplace.

The restructuring will see 120 jobs lost from a 400-strong workforce. It is designed to save A$11.5 million (US$7.5m) a year.

The AWBs five state offices will be closed and replaced with trimmer regional offices in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Five new regional acquisition offices will open in the main wheat-growing areas.

Ground-breaking legislation currently being finalised will see AWB convert from a statutory body to a commercial enterprise in July next year, with the countrys 40,000 grain growers holders of A class shares.

This will give them both equity in the new AWB and enough voting rights to control the board. The wider wheat industry community will hold B class shares which carry fewer rights. These will be tradeable once the AWB floats on the stock market probably in 2000.

Jock Kreitals, deputy director of the Grains Council of Australia, says the changes mean Australian wheat farmers will always have first say in where their crops are headed and how they are marketed.

The new structure is the final stage of a modernisation plan which began in the 1980s.

  • Financial Times 17/04/98 page 29