CBH corporate debate continues

19 Apr, 2006 08:45 PM
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OPINION over whether CBH Group should go corporate remained divided this week with some growers fervently in favour of a shift and others wondering what all the fuss was about.

CBH Group chairman Tony Critch said more had been made of the corporatisation issue than was necessary.

Mr Critch said ongoing company research continued to indicate there was not a 75pc majority of growers in favour of change.

"The results of our attempt to restructure in 2000 indicated there was an insufficient number of growers who wished to change the current cooperative structure of the CBH Group," he said.

"The CBH Group will not consider a restructure of the company unless the growers of WA clearly indicate that is the path they wish to take.

"As I've said, once growers clearly let us know that they want change then the board will give the matter further consideration."

When asked whether it was equitable that growers only owned a $2 share in a company with $1 billion in assets, Mr Critch said that was something the growers of WA had to consider.

Wongan Hills graingrower and CBH board member Robert Sewell said he had spoken with a number of farmers who wanted corporatisation since the company's annual general meeting earlier this month.

Mr Sewell said there was certainly a groundswell of people who wanted to see a change in the company's structure.

"CBH as a cooperative is quickly running out of money to upgrade the sites as quickly as growers want them to," he said.

"It shows that the model currently being used has outlived its usefulness.

"With the Albany port upgrade and the $10 million Koorda bin project there is just no spare money left.

"Every dollar that comes in is spent back on upgrades and system improvements."

Mr Sewell said many farmers answered the CBH surveys with the status quo in mind.

He suggested some growers may not be entirely aware of the lack of funds the company had available, when answering such surveys.

"When the group does eventually go corporate there will be so few growers to divide the spoils between and only those few getting the benefit," Mr Sewell said.

"The average grower who has put in many, many years and retires before corporatisation leaves with their $2 share.

"Where's the equity for them when they hand the farm over to the kids?

"And how are they going to fund their retirement without burdening the farm business?"

WAFarmers president Trevor De Landgrafft added further intrigue to the issue, saying the drive for a corporate structure was coming from within CBH Group.

"Farmers can build up a share portfolio outside the cooperative in the stock market," Mr De Landgrafft said.

"Growers want CBH as a service organisation not as a dollars and cents share organisation.

"Growers have rejected corporatisation and they are more concerned about the company's strategic sites policy and their wheat export activities."

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