Agriculture profiled in B20

25 Jul, 2014 02:00 AM
CBH CEO Dr Andy Crane says involvement in the B20 will help lift WA agriculture's profle.
We made recommendations around improving supply chains and getting investment into them."
CBH CEO Dr Andy Crane says involvement in the B20 will help lift WA agriculture's profle.

CBH chief executive officer Andy Crane has helped put co-operative business models and Australian agriculture on the corporate map.

His recent appointment to the Business 20 (B20) marked the first time a business leader from the co-op sector has been invited onto the prestigious group tasked with developing a set of clear, actionable recommendations to drive global economic growth and create jobs in the lead-up to this year's Group of 20 (G20) Summit.

From the B20's most recent meeting held in Sydney last week, Dr Crane said he'd been working alongside his B20 colleagues since Christmas on the G20 aim to lift Gross Domestic Production (GDP) by two per cent above the current trend.

He said CBH growers would benefit from his involvement in the taskforce in two ways: "agriculture gets recognised and the importance of co-ops gets recognised."

Dr Crane said from an agricultural point of view the B20 team focused on four main areas - trade, infrastructure, investment and jobs.

He was tasked with having an input into the trade and infrastructure taskforces and putting up examples of and solutions to some of the problems industry faces.

"I've been able to put up examples of where CBH has had issues with trading grain or moving goods across borders and where improvements could be made that would help lift productivity," Dr Crane said.

"In the trade area one of our recommendations was to ratify the world trade barley agreement from December 2013.

"There were 13 overall recommendations included but all of them are aimed at cutting red tape in trade.

"Anything that cuts customs time, cuts documentation or pre-approves goods transits saves money out of the supply chain for our farmers.

"The quicker the goods move the less finance is needed, the less risk there is and the more efficient the supply chain can be."

He said the group had made recommendations surrounding tariff barriers.

The number of non-tarriff barriers had exploded since the global financial crisis began, including 600 new trade restriction barriers (worldwide since 2008) and 900 murky trade barriers.

Dr Crane said these included things such as local content requirements, preference for State-owned enterprises and public procurement preferences.

"Things that don't make trade completely transparent or open," he said.

"Our second recommendation under the trade taskforce was to wind those back.

"They cover all types of trade but for agriculture what we're talking about is ensuring there's proper restrictions but not ones that act as an artificial trade barrier.

"It's perfectly understandable that countries wish to protect their agriculture - we do the same in Australia - but not to the point where it's not a logical requirement and is actually just there as a trade barrier."

Dr Crane said infrastructure recommendations were all about smoothing out the supply chain and investment in infrastructure.

He said globally, 30 per cent of food is wasted in the supply chain which meant 30pc of food produced doesn't make it from the farmgate to the fork (he was quick to clarify that wastage was less than half a per cent in the CBH supply chain).

"This is a big issue within G20 nations and if we can save that, we're gaining productivity to start with," Dr Crane said.

"We made recommendations around improving supply chains and getting investment into them."

He said his involvement was important to make sure the co-op sector is understood by business people and governments as a viable business model and alternative when developing economies.

"We made a strong case - if governments are looking to privatise assets, co-operatives and mutuals can be very good custodians of supply chain, energy and irrigation assets," Dr Crane said.

"Within the infrastructure group particularly the worth of co-ops and mutuals has been well documented so that government can see their value."

Dr Crane has copped some flack from certain factions of the WA farming fraternity for his involvement in the B20.

"It certainly hasn't been to boost my own personal profile," he said.

"If growers are genuinely interested in a strong and healthy CBH then CBH needs to take a role in these things.

"It's a great profile for the organisation.

"It helps our employment brand to attract and retain strong people.

"It helps us to make the case that co-ops need to be valued by government and it ensures that agriculture has a voice which we do often miss out on."

President of the International Co-operative Alliance Dame Pauline Green said the B20 success was hugely important for the alliance.

"It's a key strand of our advocacy work outlined in the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, which sets out the strategy for the movement until the end of this decade and beyond," she said.

"If, as the blueprint demands, we are to grow the worldwide movement in the coming years, our challenge now is to ensure that when the B20 meets in Brisbane in November 2014, Dr Crane is not alone in making sure that the co-operative difference is understood and valued."



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