Alarm bells ring over sugar terminal board change
Peak grower organisation CANEGROWERS will be keeping a close watch over the management of Queensland’s six bulk sugar terminals in the future to make sure growers are not disadvantaged by Wilmar Sugar seizing increased influence over the vital industry infrastructure.
“Wilmar’s decision to flex its majority holding of miller shares in Sugar Terminals Limited (STL) and put its own people in the two miller positions on the board has set alarm bells ringing in the industry,” CANEGROWERS Chairman Paul Schembri said after the STL Annual General Meeting in Brisbane.
“Wilmar is now the only milling company represented on the board. We’re not suggesting that Wilmar is doing anything illegal but we do not believe that this action is in the best interests of the industry.”
The five-member STL board also includes two grower representatives and an independent chair.
“Our very grave concern is around the level of influence Wilmar will now have, from the board, over terminal operation and pricing,” Mr Schembri said.
“The bulk sugar terminals are currently managed for STL by QSL, an industry-owned and not-for-profit company. Wilmar has been publicly questioning QSL’s role at a time when the contract is up for re-negotiation.
“And because profit is not a focus, the terminals are operated on an equitable cost basis meaning similar charges are applied at all terminals ensuring a level playing field for all stakeholders in the Queensland industry.
“It is important for the industry that these fair and equitable access arrangements continue. They have served growers and all milling companies well, helping us to together build a reputation as an efficient and reliable supplier of quality sugar to the world market.”
The STL constitution does allow for an expansion of the board and Paul Schembri said CANEGROWERS would engage in an industry discussion to explore the possibility of appointing more independent directors.
“We need to ensure that all relevant industry voices are represented on this board so that its decisions are scrutinised to make sure they are in the best interests of the industry as a whole,” Mr Schembri said.