CBH claims majority support against AGC

27 Apr, 2016 11:13 AM
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CBH chief executive officer Andy Crane is focusing on the consultation and structural review of the co-operative following supportive member survey results.
CBH chief executive officer Andy Crane is focusing on the consultation and structural review of the co-operative following supportive member survey results.

CBH is claiming widespread support for its board decision to reject the Australian Grains Champion's (AGC) proposal to corporatise the entity.

An independent phone survey of 1000 members has revealed 78 per cent of grower members support the decision.

CBH chief executive officer Andy Crane said these results back an exit poll survey conducted with growers at the recent meeting series held across the Wheatbelt where 89pc of participants were in favour of the board's judgement.

"It's an important part of our business, as a member-owned organisation we must stay close to our growers' views," Dr Crane said.

"This was a slightly larger than normal survey and by expanding the survey group we are able to get statistical information that gives us 95pc confidence that all members have the same views as those shown in the results."

Independent market research agency Thinkfield conducted the phone surveys and a second independent company has been compiling the information received.

Growers were asked two questions as a part of the survey, the first asked if the participant supported the CBH board's decision to reject the AGC proposal.

The second asked if the participant supported CBH's moves to conduct a structure and governance review.

The questions allowed for yes, no and unsure as answers.

In question one, 78pc answered yes, 11pc answered no and 11pc answered unsure to supporting the board's decision.

The second question drew 89pc to answer yes, 4pc no and 7pc unsure.

Surveys are a regular part of CBH's business plans to ensure the co-operative is meeting grower needs, understands grower priorities and gathers feedback on important issues.

Dr Crane said the AGC proposal and subsequent moves by CBH to conduct an internal review had taken centre stage in the board's concerns and decision making for the past few months.

He said it was logical that these issues were the focus of the surveys.

"I don't think you can have anything more open or straight up than the questions we asked growers," Dr Crane said.

"The board has made that decision (regarding the AGC proposal) and they were double checking with growers that they supported that and it's overwhelming from growers that weren't at the meetings and those that were (that they support this move.)

"That question wasn't loaded in any way ... the board has been clear at every grower meeting that this will be an unbiased review.

"As a grower co-operative we work with growers every day so we get a good feel for their needs and our directors are growers, but we also use quarterly surveying to ensure we're getting a strong and representative feel of what is important to them."

Dr Crane said with such strong results CBH would be focusing on the consultation process and creation of a report for grower consideration on the future of the co-operative's structure and network strategy.

Key topics covered in this review include realising grower value in CBH membership, grower and board control of the co-operative into the future and where do growers want the business to focus on delivering value.

"Regardless of whether people are coming to the meetings or not, they're saying 'I agree if anyone is going to look at the structure of this business it should be us and not driven by an external offer'," Dr Crane said.

"They're clearly confirming the offer should be rejected and this should be done ourselves.

"We will now get on with the structure review that we promised, we've already had our first meetings with the board.

"We already are going through and analysing responses from the meetings where we asked for preliminary input into structures and governance issues that growers would like us to look at."

While consultation will continue, the next stage of the review will reach growers in September with a report on shortlisted options for the future.

Options to consider were presented to growers in the recent meetings and these were also covered in Dr Crane's recent presentation at an agribusiness investors conference in Sydney.

The conference, which brought together agricultural businesses across the country, heard from presenters on business activities and financials.

Dr Crane said CBH regularly attends the event despite being a non-trading entity and its financials stack up well to competitors.

He covered initial structure options for the co-operative to be considered by growers in the review.

These included structures such as non-distributing co-operative, distributing co-operative, dual co-operative to full corporatisation.

"At our grower meetings we talked about a generic list of structural options," he said.

"At the grower meetings we explained the types of structures that are out there and we started a discussion about the trade offs that they need to make between each structure.

"We're very much a member-based organisation so we're wanting members to drive our focus."

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