Three major WA lobby groups call on CBH to match the 21.3mt record harvest with a record export total

Doug Smith, Gary McGill, Mic Fels Countryman
A ship is loaded at CBH's Kwinana Port Terminal. Cally Dupe
Camera IconA ship is loaded at CBH's Kwinana Port Terminal. Cally Dupe Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, WA Grains Group and WAFarmers are calling for CBH Group to match the record achievement of receiving 21.3 million tonnes of grain in 2021, with a record achievement of exporting as much of the crop as possible into the first half of 2022 (before the northern hemisphere harvest commences), to capitalise on the highest prices we have ever seen for grains across the board.

At last Friday’s CBH annual general meeting, CBH chief financial officer Stewart Hart calculated that not doing so would cost Western Australian growers in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.

This problem will not stop at this harvest, with the legacy of a large carryover of grain subduing prices into the next harvest as well.

WA grain is now selling at fire-sale prices, $60 to $200 per tonne below our competitors, as a direct result of our inability to export our crop fast enough.

The ports themselves have more than enough capacity: the bottleneck is shifting our grain from bin to port.

Our three grower representative organisations have jointly been liaising and meeting with the CBH to assist in developing emergency measures to this end.

Options to get one to two million tonnes of additional grain onto the market during the peak shipping window include commencing 24/7 operating hours at outturn, enlisting the grower and sub-contractor trucking fleets, bringing forward additional rail capacity, and incentivising lead transport contractors to outperform existing contracts, including systems that incentivise subcontractors to join the fleet rather than shying away from the work.

It is our view that no fertiliser or lime truck heading towards a port should be driving past a CBH bin empty.

This once-in-a-lifetime window of opportunity is rapidly closing, and our respective members are becoming increasingly anxious that there is no new shipping stem or associated new bids for our grain at current global value, which is the ultimate marker of progress on this front.

CBH signalled at last week’s AGM that they were busy working up solutions.

Collectively, our organisations request that CBH management and the Board of Directors execute post-haste on all available options, as a most urgent priority.

We also call on the State and Local Governments to work with CBH by making interim transport concessions on issues like road access, noise and operating hours at CBH bins, and ports to help achieve this outcome.

We are part of the international food supply chain, which is right now wanting to buy our grain at historical record prices.

Our opportunity is now and as growers we cannot afford to “wait a while.”

Doug Smith (WA Grains Group chair), Gary McGill (PGA Western Graingrowers Committee chair), Mic Fels (WAFarmers Grains Section president)

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