Ruralco calls for trade transparency

Ruralco calls for greater water trade regulation


On Farm
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Senior executives at one of Australia’s biggest water broking companies, Ruralco and its subsidiaries, have added their voice to calls for greater regulation of irrigation trades.

Senior executives at one of Australia’s biggest water broking companies, Ruralco and its subsidiaries, have added their voice to calls for greater regulation of irrigation trades.

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REGULATION CALL: Peter Weaver, Rodwell's and Total Eden executive general manager added his voice to calls for water trading integrity in water trading. Photo: Andrew Miller.

REGULATION CALL: Peter Weaver, Rodwell's and Total Eden executive general manager added his voice to calls for water trading integrity in water trading. Photo: Andrew Miller.

Speaking after the opening of new Total Eden premises, in Shepparton, Ruralco Water general manager Phil Grahame said any market could be improved.

“It would be a difficult thing to implement, because it involves transfers, over three or four states, and getting the states to agree to something can be a difficult thing,” Mr Grahame said. 

“But from a broker point of view, we welcome regulation – from a market operation point of view, there’s certainly things the state water managers could do, to help the market.

“The mechanics of the trade out of the ‘Bidgee the other day, is a prime example of that.”

WaterNSW has introduced a one-hour gap between notifying the public when the Murray-Murrumbidgee inter-valley trade account opened, and when it received applications. The change came in the wake of a trade, which saw one water broker successfully transfer the entire available trade limit within minutes. 

Mr Grahame said Ruralco was not against competition, but would like to see independently audited trust accounts, minimum professional indemnity insurance and a requirement for disclosure of any conflicts of interest.

“It was a flawed system, from the start, as their website showed intervalley trades was open and they would accept applications.

“The particular broker took a punt it was going to open and it did.

“So he was lucky in that regard; if it didn’t open, all his trades would have been refused.”

Mr Grahame said the ballot system, which used to operate, was not perfect, but was more transparent “than relying on internet connection speed, or something like that”.

“I am sure there’s a solution, it’s just finding it and implementing it – if they want to ask us, what we believe is the fairest for all stakeholders, we are happy to give them some ideas.

“We just want it so everyone has an equal chance.”

And Rodwell’s and Total Eden executive general manager Peter Weaver said integrity was required, in any business.

“Whether it be water trading, or real estate, if you don’t have integrity, you don’t have a business,” Mr Weaver said.

A water trading scheme allowed for the true value of the commodity to be reflected. “The lesser the supply, the more the demand and the higher the price, so it flows to higher value commodities.

“Instead of flood irrigating wheat, you will put it on tomatoes, or nuts.”

He said the new Total Eden Shepparton site would reduce costs and allow the company to manufacture products for other markets, such as Queensland and northern New South Wales.

But he said there were significant on-farm efficiencies, which could still be found in the Shepparton area.

“I certainly think 50 per cent of farms in this area could do with improvement; a lot of the schemes are getting older, so they need replacement.

“Putting in new infrastructure will pay dividends, not only in terms of using less water, but also taking care of soil hydrology - using too much water can have detrimental impacts on the soil profile

“So it’s not only a watering system, it’s an integrated system, with such things as moisture meters in the ground, indicating whether you need to water or not.”

On farm water efficiencies, pioneered in the Goulburn Valley, could be applied in other parts of Australia and the world.

“What we can do here, we can perhaps duplicate in other areas of Australia, which are behind this region, in regards to flood irrigation, such as the Burdekin region, in Queensland. We have got efficiency measures and capability which are scalable up in that area.”

He said the company also had the expertise to assist in places like California.

“They have come out of a pretty nasty drought, over the last couple of years, and they are looking to Australia, as a model, for a water trading scheme,” Mr Weaver said.

“We can offer a lot of expertise in setting up the scheme, we know the history, we have the platform to do it. Potentially they can cut out some of the years of evolution to come to a solution.”

The story Ruralco calls for trade transparency first appeared on Stock & Land.

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