Growers back formal CBH review

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Almost nine out of 10 WA grain growers support a formal review of the structure and governance of CBH, according to the results of an independent survey commissioned by the co-operative.

The survey of almost 1000 growers found 89 per cent wanted a thorough review of options for the business which could lead to it remaining a non-distributing co-operative or listing on the Australian Securities Exchange.

It also showed that 78 per cent of growers supported the CBH board decision to reject an Australian Grains Champion proposal to corporatise the co-operative with financial backing from GrainCorp.

The results are similar to those from exit polls at recent CBH meetings in the Wheatbelt where about 900 growers made it clear they wanted more information about structure options and a say on any changes.

Chief executive Andy Crane said the survey, conducted by Thinkfield, had given CBH a “very definite view” of grower concerns.

“There is a strong understanding among members that the co-operative model works well for them. They want to know if there is something better out there and what would be the trade-offs,” he said.

CBH will prepare an information booklet on the options and send it to its 4145 grower members in September, along with a short list for them to consider.

Dr Crane said he had learned a lot about the options as chairman of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals.

“We have run the business very successfully as a non-distributing co-operative in recent years and that would show why growers seem to be supporting that strongly. Equally, there are other models,” he said.

“The board have said they are going to be open to all structures, with no bias. At the grower meetings we have listed options that run from a non-distributing co-operative through to full corporatisation.”

CBH has reaped total profits of $363.6 million over the past three years on the back of big harvests and its members are hoping for another good result after a wet start to autumn.

Dr Crane said many growers could not have asked for a better start to seeding.

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