FORMER CBH director Colin Butcher believes WA grain growers should wipe the slate clean and begin talking openly about the future of CBH’s business structure, before it gets too late.
Speaking to Farm Weekly last week, Mr Butcher said there was a tremendous amount of potential tied up in CBH but growers needed to let the company go so it can harvest the benefit of that potential on growers’ behalf.
“That is the big issue at the moment,” Mr Butcher said.
“The industry is at the crossroads and so is CBH.
“Growers have to decide if they want to keep the handbrake on and hold the company back, or whether they want to let it off and allow CBH to reach its potential.”
Mr Butcher spoke for the first time since being voted off the CBH board in controversy at the director elections earlier this year.
The Brookton farmer, who served a three-year term, lost his Kwinana zone seat in a lop-sided contest while another sitting director was replaced in similar fashion in the Albany zone.
Mr Butcher said he was disappointed at being voted off the board, but was concerned that CBH’s plans to restructure the company may be held back by the same perceptions that led to his demise.
“Let’s get this debate out in the open so everyone can shake off the shackles that are holding it back and start talking freely about the company’s structural improvement,” he said.
“CBH is at risk of not going forward because its current structure is limiting the potential of that progress.
“Those growers who want to live in the past and keep things as they have been, simply for the sake of it, need to consider the facts a lot more closely and alter their attitudes towards change.
“They need to realise that the industry is undergoing a significant evolution at the moment and if CBH doesn’t keep up it will simply get left behind.”
Mr Butcher had put his thoughts in a six-page document that was recently distributed via e-mail to the media and some members of the WA farming community.
His actions coincide with CBH chairman Tony Critch and chief executive officer Imre Mencshelyi’s move to tackle the issue of a CBH restructure from a new angle, after several failed attempts at board level.
Mr Critch and Mr Mencshelyi have joined senior management at shareholder meetings in the Wheatbelt over the past month to discuss the company’s future and gauge growers’ views on the company’s current structure.
Mr Mencshelyi said the meetings were not about proposing a new structure but more about opening up discussion so growers could air their opinions.
“There is probably more support and understanding out there now of the fact that the structure we have at the moment, which has supported us so well for so many years, is not perhaps the structure that will take us into the future,” Mr Mencshelyi.
Mr Butcher’s email said there was an urgent problem the WA grains industry needed to address.
“What do we plan to do with CBH in the future?” he said.
“Recent changes to the structure of ABB and the inevitable restructure of AWB to a single class share ownership will see these two companies, which are already competitors to CBH, become more aggressive and very likely to erode market share from the Grain Pool, and perhaps even CBH storage and handling.
“In a co-operative the members have a responsibility to the co-operative just as the co-operative has to its members.
“But growers who continue to place demands on the co-operative without shouldering the responsibilities of membership can eventually destroy the viability of the business and its ability to perform its role.”