Grains surplus challenge

11 Aug, 2004 10:00 PM
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THE 14.7 million tonne 2003-04 harvest is creating a logistics challenge for Co-operative Bulk Handling (CBH) as it desperately tries to clear carryover stocks in time for the 2004-05 harvest.

CBH operations general manager Colin Tutt said the company was aiming at shipping out 14mt and have 2mt in carryover stocks at November 1.

There was a 1mt carryover in the system at the start of the 2003 harvest.

"We are trying to go harder at port because that's where we want the stock but we can't get the transport any higher than it is," Mr Tutt said.

"There are surplus wagons on the standard gauge and we haven't got enough train sets available from the Australian Railroad Group (ARG) to run any more capacity than they are at the moment."

Mr Tutt denied there was a shortage of trains, despite CBH hiring additional trains to assist with record shipping demand.

"We don't have a shortage of trains as all trains are being used to their maximum," he said.

"But we are using additional road transport to supplement and assist the total transportation task."

Mr Tutt said CBH was using nine narrow gauge trains and three standard gauge trains hauling about 200,000t each week to four ports.

He said all the sites along the standard gauge had been partly cleared.

He said the challenge for CBH was to get grain from narrow gauge sites transferred to standard gauge sites.

Mr Tutt said the priorities for CBH and ARG were to get more accountability and efficiency in the rail system and nail down what type of network CBH wants to build.

"There's no doubt there are inefficiencies in the transportation system ‹and that's from a CBH perspective and also from an ARG perspective," Mr Tutt said.

"We are working very closely in endeavouring to improve efficiencies.

"We need to get up to 95-100pc productivity, and in some cases this is being achieved."

Mr Tutt said the Grain Direct joint venture with AWB would provide CBH with better logistical management and increase efficiencies.

He said the cooperation between CBH operational staff, marketers, transporters and local shires have consistently resulted in more than 1mt of grain exported each month.

"This is an amazing achievement," he said.

"We have been operating at an extremely high capacity, organising logistics and loading grain day and night, ever since growers put their harvesters in the shed at the end of last season's harvest."

An AGR spokesperson said moving the large harvest had been an enormous challenge and acknowledged it was stretching the land transport system to its maximum capacity.

"However CBH and ARG have been and are continuing to work closely together to meet record shipping demand," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also agreed with Mr Tutt that there were further efficiencies both companies could make.

"While the system is not without its problems, CBH and ARG have a mutual ongoing continuous improvement process to ensure we identify and correct any manageable impediments to our meeting the demands of moving this record harvest," he said.

Meanwhile, WAFarmers president Trevor De Landgrafft has called on the State Government to address the rundown of road and rail infrastructure throughout WA.

"It's not the railway's fault," Mr De Landgrafft said.

"The infrastructure is just about worn out and there is a necessity for some sort of a significant central standard gauge network that takes the traffic direct to port."

Mr De Landgrafft said the State Government needed to take a more active role in regional planning for the future.

"What has it got in mind to replace the rail network that's out there?" he asked.

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