CBH makes move into US

BRAD THOMPSONThe West Australian

CBH has established a beachhead office in the Pacific Northwest in an historic move to buy US and Canadian grain for its customers in Asia.

The giant WA co-operative has set up in Portland and will leverage off its powerful position domestically to form reciprocal relationships with big players in the US industry trying to get a foothold in Australia.

The bold move signals CBH will not sit back as multinationals take strategic chunks of the Australian grain market without returning the favour in their heartlands.

It is also based on predictions that demand for grain among customers in Asia will rise 11 million tonnes over the next five years.

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CBH plans to accumulate about 500,000t from outside Australia over the next 12 months. That figure is set to grow dramatically if the move proves a success.

CBH marketing manager Tom Puddy said a number of multinational companies with US port assets wanted access to the Australian market, including some already active here but with no infrastructure assets on the ground.

"We may be able to develop arrangements where we can swap liquidity," Mr Puddy said. "We would give them greater access from Australia and they would give us access to their ports in the US.

"It seems a logical first step for us to branch out from Australia to grow our business."

Mr Puddy said CBH had prepared for the move for several years by buying small amounts of grain out of the US, Canada, Europe and South America in putting together cargoes for some of its 260 customers spread across 30 countries.

It had also learnt for the experiences of multinationals in setting up operations in Australia.

"It might seem a bold move but it's the same as an American company coming here and trying to get access and traction in the market," Mr Puddy said.

"Success is about how you do it and the relationships that you can create that give you leverage in the market.

"We think we have the right formula in place to get some traction in the US. CBH out of Australia is a key asset partner and a lot of companies internationally are interested in having a stronger relationship with CBH."

Mr Puddy would not reveal the multinationals CBH was likely to form reciprocal ties with.

However, its shipping arrangements from the US should make it obvious. There are 10 privately owned grain elevators and terminals on the Pacific Northwest coast concentrated over roughly the same distance as Kwinana to Bunbury.

Last year, CBH became the first Australian trader to gain accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to import wheat directly into Japan.

The accreditation will allow CBH to become the first Australian company to trade wheat from the US directly through the MAFF tender system.

Sam Nottle has been appointed senior commodity trader and will head up CBH's Portland operations.

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