Mussared makes his case

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Stuart Mussared of Cunderdin is standing for District 2 election.
Camera IconStuart Mussared of Cunderdin is standing for District 2 election. Credit: Countryman

Stuart Mussared, of Cunderdin, hopes to represent District 2 on the CBH board.

Why are you standing for election?

For several years, I have become increasingly concerned about CBH’s move away from its core business of handling, storage and marketing members’ grain, and its increasing interest in what seems to be expansion for expansion’s sake. If the board wishes to spend growers’ money on storage and handling, do it in WA, not in the competitive Eastern States market. I can also see no benefit in the board spending growers’ money in setting up in competition with the many fertiliser distributors in country towns throughout WA.

What experience do you bring to the table?

My real experience is in running a successful farming business for the past 35 years, which has taught me how to work, listen, negotiate and prioritise, all essentials for making good business decisions. Off farm, I have been on the Cunderdin Hospital board and was recently elected to the Cunderdin Farmers’ Co-operative. All boards, from the local tennis club to BHP, have a regular turnover of members, keeping a judicious mix of experience plus fresh eyes to look at old problems, so I would also bring fresh, but informed, eyes to the business.

What changes do you hope to make on the board and at CBH?

CBH is a very good business and has been integral to WA growers for many years, but it must return to concentrating on its storage, handling and grain marketing businesses and run it more efficiently and not as a monopoly to cope with possible future competition. My family has been delivering to CBH for 83 years and, like most farmers, I have no desire to change, so the monies spent on literature and advertising seem to be largely a waste. The best advertising the business can be involved in is by cutting handling costs and offering competitive bids for grain.

What are your thoughts on Australian Grains Champion’s attempt to corporatise CBH?

The AGC proposal was possibly neither the first nor the last that will appear, although lessons should be learnt from it. The CBH board has an important role in examining such proposals and recommending their rejection or acceptance, but the final, important decision should be the province of each and every grower member — after all, it is their CBH and it should be their decision. When the next proposal is seen, I hope the board’s response will incorporate that concept.

What is your view on CBH investing outside of WA?

The best use that farmers can make of their money is to invest it themselves, either on their farm or off it. CBH should not be appropriating their money unless it can provide a better return to its members. Investing in Asian flour mills is a good idea, but only if it can be shown that the involvement results in better returns. A keen eye must be kept on this to ensure it does achieve these goals. I have yet to meet a grower who supports CBH to invest members’ money in an Eastern States business, even a grain handling one. I certainly do not support it.

What are the biggest issues or challenges for CBH in the next five years?

After the 2016–17 harvest, the biggest issue will be in planning for a 20 million tonne grain harvest in a rain-free period. Failure to achieve this will see increased use of on-farm storage and investment from competing companies.

Should smaller sites be closed to increase efficiency across the network?

The size of receival points is, in itself, unimportant, for it is the cost of handling the grain at each point that is paramount. However, size will generally reduce costs, as will access to an efficient rail line. It has been revealed that 95.6 per cent of grain has been delivered to the 100 biggest bins in the State, while in my own case, I already have to travel 70km to 80km to deliver my canola, lupins and BFOD1 barley, which would indicate that rationalising the number of receival points is the price we will have to pay to improve efficiency.

Final comments

Over the past five years, CBH has received an average of 13.5 million tonnes each year, which amounts to $135 million needed to cover a $10/t rebate. So, where does the money come from? Publicised figures show that it could not come from investments or marketing, therefore, it can only come from storage and handling fees. Growers would be better off with their accounts deferred at harvest so that CBH knows the extent of the harvest and adjusts its receival fees accordingly. To growers, remember, it is your CBH, so please cast your votes well before February 20 to have your influence.

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