The boss of Australia’s biggest co-operative has warned Omicron could further challenge its supply chain in 2022 as it looks to ship a record 21m tonne grain crop. CBH Group chief executive Ben Macnamara told members at the co-operative’s AGM in Perth on Friday that exporting the record crop in the face of the looming threat of COVID-19 was “at the front of everyone’s minds”. During 2021, several compounding factors from labour shortages to natural disasters restricted CBH’s ability to move tonnes to port via road and rail over several months, leading to lengthened vessel loading times and a $17.3 million demurrage bill. Mr Macnamara said with record demand for WA grain and shipping capacity of CBH’s four port terminals fully booked, the immediate focus was on unlocking every opportunity possible to increase transport and get more tonnes to port to meet market demand. “Overlaying this is the emergence of Omicron, which presents significantly more challenges,” he said. He noted CBH’s Blue Lake Milling oat processing facility in South Australia had up to 50 per cent of the workforce isolating at the peak of its outbreak, either due to having the virus or being considered a close contact. He said workforce restrictions would continue to have a critical impact on an already tight WA labour market, particularly within the transport industry, resulting in further constraints on the local supply chain during 2022. “That said, we have measures in place to protect and isolate our people in business-critical roles to reduce their risk of exposure,” he said. “We also continue to work with all our major contractors on their contingency plans to minimise disruption.” Mr Macnamara pointed to the success of the marketing and trading division, which after losing access to China as a market for barley, pivoted toward the South American markets of Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. He said 2021 was also another year of fantastic growth for the fertiliser business with 184,000 tonnes outturned to growers, marking a 47 per cent increase in volume.