Irate growers in battle for bin

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

An emergency meeting over the fate of CBH's Beverley receival point was called after local growers spotted contractors pulling the site's open bulkhead down.

The war to keep the Beverley site open has been raging for near on a decade, with local growers determined to keep the site to alleviate pressure during harvest.

CBH has assured growers the site will be kept functional in case it is needed, but local grower Trevor McLean said another farmer drove past the site on Monday on to see contractors pulling down Beverley's only functional grain storage - an open bulkhead.

That farmer was told the bulkhead would be sent to Geraldton to help with its record harvest, despite Beverley farmers not being informed of the decision.

About 25 growers attended Tuesday's meeting with CBH representatives, who decided the bulkhead could remain.

But according to CBH operations manager Colin Tutt, the backflip doesn't mean the bin will open this harvest.

"At this stage we don't see ourselves opening Beverley to support this harvest and growers are quite irate about this," he said.

"We were in the process of dismantling the open bulk head and taking that to the Geraldton zone, and they saw that as the final straw in respect to the longevity of that site.

"We'll go and take facilities from another receival site to take to Geraldton."

Part of the problem is that growers have concerns about congestion and the turnaround time at the York and Brookton bins, particularly with the Beverley catchment containing between 30,000 and 35,000 tonnes of grain.

"They believe that although they travelled to Brookton and York last year, the performance at those sites wasn't up to their expectations when they had to travel extra distance," Mr Tutt said.

"We've agreed to have a look at how we can get York's performance up a bit more and to allay their concerns about its performance.

"We will have a look at what we can do to about York and then we will go back to the growers in a couple of weeks."

Beverley farmers are happy the bin has had a reprieve, but say the fight isn't over yet.

"It doesn't mean the bin is opening does it?" Mr McLean said.

"(CBH) has got a two-week ultimatum to see if they can find some other solution, otherwise we'd like to see the Beverley bin opened.

"We're only asking for three weeks to get our wheat off."

Beverley grower Tim Kilpatrick said he had previously waited up to four hours at the Brookton receival site and he had no confidence CBH would be able to improve the congestion at either receival point by this harvest.

"I was at York for at least an hour at one stage last year, if not on multiple occasions and last year was one of worst, if not the worst, on record," he said.

"(Since then) they've done nothing to upgrade York, and yet they expect it to be able to take grain fast.

"Because of my anticipation of the bin being unable to receive the grain in a timely manner, I've purchased a bagging system.

"That way if I'm delayed with the bin, I can carry on harvesting and store it temporarily, but that's a cost to me of probably $5 a tonne which I have to wear."

In the meantime, CBH will take storage from other sites yet to be determined to help cope with Geraldton's harvest.

"We've got about 15,000 extra frames going up to Geraldton at the moment and we're building a lot of emergency storage up there," Mr Tutt said.

"We're taking steel frames out of the Esperance and Albany zones."

Mr Tutt also said taking the Beverley bulkhead to Geraldton this harvest wouldn't have meant the facility was lost permanently.

"We dismantle quite a few bulkheads around the State," Mr Tutt said.

"It's a regular thing we do - we move resources around and our ability to relocate is very quick."

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