ABOUT 50 people attended a public meeting in Lake Grace last Thursday to discuss the difference in handling costs between the Albany and Esperance Port Zones and future of Tier 3.
Prompted by speculation CBH is about to make a wide-scale investment on the east coast and the possibility Tier 3 will become unusable, the meeting was geared towards getting answers and developing a way forward.
Long-serving WAFarmers member Bob Iffla said the meeting held by the WAFarmers Corrigin-Lake Grace Zone was a platform for growers to discuss their concerns with grain traders and determine the next step in their pursuit of fairness.
Mr Iffla wants Nationals deputy leader Mia Davies to take up the cause and push for some certainty in both cases.
"Grain traders, CBH, Brookfield and WAFarmers need to make a joint approach to the government through Mia Davies, to secure Royalties for Regions funding as well as trying to attract federal funds for carbon emissions reductions," he said.
"This approach must also have relevant access fee safeguards, track usage and maintenance provisions."
During the meeting, Wheatbelt Rail Retention Alliance (WRRA) president Bill Cowan demanded CBH invest in its WA operations before setting its sights elsewhere.
He asked for assurances from the CBH board of directors that they would urgently invest in infrastructure in WA to resolve the bottlenecks in grain flow to terminals, before they commit further to interstate or overseas investments.
According to Mr Iffla, it is these bottlenecks that are severely disadvantaging growers in the Esperance and Albany zones.
"CBH is looking at spending our hard-earned money giving the Eastern States grain growers' better facilities and marketing options," he said.
"CBH needs to work more on our own facilities and marketing options within our State before our competitors.
"Both government and CBH directors need to have a good look at what is going on within port zones and fix the problem as we will not stand by and be discriminated against."
He said it boiled down to relevant access fee safeguards and track usage provisions.
"The problem at the Albany port is definitely the lack of ability to get grain onto the elevator," Mr Iffla said.
"Money needs to be put towards getting more trains into that port, they also need to get some bypass lanes put in so the train that's coming back can get off the rail on a little side track, and the others can go straight through, so we can get more train movement through and more rolling stock.
"Although the ports can handle two to three times the amount of grain we're producing, the infrastructure at the ports and around the ports trains and rolling stock; holds up deliveries.
"Once the deliveries actually arrive to port however it's fine.
"We just can't believe CBH would even consider investing over east instead of maximising the returns to growers in a port that's the fastest growing production port in Australia."
Mr Iffla said the difference in grain prices between the three port zones was a real sore point.
"At the moment the difference between Geraldton and Albany is $39 per tonne, but it's been up over $50," he said.
"The average grower is producing about 2500-3000 tonnes of grain.
"You multiply that out by, let's say $30 per tonne that we're losing, and you can see why growers want to maximise their returns."
Mr Iffla said the solution was simple CBH needed to invest more money in the affected zones.
"Not only at the ports but also the upkeep of some of these bins," he said.
"CBH did a marvellous job of taking the grain in this season, but it's the next stage that's the real problem.
"We've been the milking cow and now we want the money spent where it needs to be spent."