Michael Pascoe writes:

While AWB keeps throwing millions at lawyers, the Australian wheat industry has failed miserably in its core business, losing what was its most profitable market.

As we now know, Iraq was only so very profitable for AWB because it was corrupt, not because it of its much-vaunted wheat export monopoly. Without the corruption factor, Caroline Overington reports in The Oz that American farmers have grabbed 72% of the Iraqi market, up from nothing in 2002.

Iraq is now the America’s second-biggest buyer of hard red winter wheat – a market that was 90% Australian wheat. Nice work AWB, DFAT and sundry fellow travellers.

The figures also call into question the effectiveness of the interim coalition of Australian grain companies that’s doing a little business with Iraq while the country refuses to touch AWB. The consortium of CBH, GrainCorp and ABB is hardly setting the Iraq market on fire – the only export market it’s allowed to play in.

The consortium also shows no interest in breaking the single desk monopoly model – but no doubt they’d be happy to take it off the disgraced AWB’s hands.

It’s a jury-rigged solution to a serious problem for the Australian industry that’s now paying the real price for AWB’s sins.

Peter Fray

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