Geoffrey Michael Honey
July 4,1952 - June 10, 2016
GRAIN industry leaders are mourning the sudden death of Grain Trade Australia (GTA) chief executive officer Geoff Honey.
A prominent and widely-respected grains industry identity, Mr Honey, 63, died after suffering a heart attack while cycling to work in Sydney.
GTA chairman Peter Reading said there had been an incredible response throughout the industry at news of Mr Honey's death, from grower groups, grain traders, bulk handling companies and government officials.
"It's an extremely sad day, to lose Geoff who was a true gentleman and a real champion of the industry," Mr Reading said.
"It's a great loss not only for Geoff's family but also for the entire agricultural industry and there's been a tremendous response from everyone."
In an email to GTA members Mr Reading wrote: "Geoff will be sadly missed by all of us in the industry. His enthusiasm, dedication and commitment for GTA and the entire grain industry was simply outstanding."
Mr Reading said Mr Honey had a background working in the wool industry and in grain marketing risk management, before joining GTA in 2003.
Formed in 1991 to establish common grain trading standards, trade rules and grain contracts across Australia, GTA facilitates efficient commercial trading in wheat, coarse grains, oilseeds and pulses with more than 90 per cent of Australian grain sold on GTA contracts.
Apart from his role as chief executive, Mr Honey was also company secretary and a GTA trainer in areas of trade rules and contracts and dispute resolution.
From a rural background, he had worked in many facets of agriculture, from a family farm business through to operating a futures and grain marketing advisory firm before joining GTA.
A Churchill Fellow, he held professional qualifications in agricultural science, arbitration and teaching.
He was a member of the International Grain Trade Coalition Association management council and the Grain and Plant Products Export Industry Consultative Committee for the federal Agriculture and Water Resources Department.
Mr Honey had also worked in various strategic positions advising government, including the Wheat Industry Expert Group that assisted with providing advice on transitioning towards market deregulation in 2008.
In WA, Premium Grain Handlers manager John Orr, who worked closely with Mr Honey when he was a GTA director for three years, said it was sad news.
"He was very well respected. He put his heart into the industry and was a very strong advocate," Mr Orr said.
"He was a major source of energy which saw GTA really take the lead in establishing a self-regulating industry infrastructure to deal with standards and arbitration after deregulation.
"Geoff was very strong on establishing a national arbitration process because it hadn't been needed before, government regulation had controlled the industry before deregulation."
Mr Orr said deregulation "could have been a disaster" for Australia's grain industry, particularly for WA if it had decided to go its own way, but for the efforts of Mr Honey and GTA.
"Most States had their own branches of the NACMA (National Agricultural Commodity Marketers' Association, which later became GTA) and there were a number of small trading associations that could have all have decided to set their own standards for grains, written their own contracts - it could have been a disaster.
"Geoff and the GTA chairman came over to WA and met with grain merchants about 15 years ago to talk about national standards.
"When deregulation occurred a few years later there was a realisation at that stage that a national self-regulatory framework like they had been talking about was required.
"It's operated very successfully, these days when filling in a contract we write the class, tonnage, destination and dates and for all the other detail we just write 'as per GTA'," Mr Orr said.
He said Mr Honey was a "very strong family person" who was proud of his children.
He enjoyed keeping fit and was community minded - he was involved with Newport Surf Club, a volunteer fire fighter with Ku-ring-gai Bush Fire Brigade and a member of an Army Reserve commando unit.
CBH Group paid tribute to Mr Honey with a statement on behalf of its board, management and staff.
"Geoff will be remembered for his valuable contribution to the Australian grain industry over many years. Our heartfelt condolences to the Honey family at this sad time," CBH said.
Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said he had developed a strong working relationship with Mr Honey over 15-years and had received "tremendous support" during his early days representing growers.
"It's a real shock to lose someone so young who was extremely fit," he said.
"Geoff was always a strong supporter of the industry and passionate in the way he carried out his duties."
Mr Weidemann said Mr Honey had worked hard at GTA to develop standards for grain trading and marketing, and improving market access, in the post-AWB single desk era, leaving a positive legacy.
Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre chief executive officer Richard Simonaitis said his group was saddened at Mr Honey's passing.
"The industry has lost a leader in Geoff," Mr Simonaitis said.
"As chief executive officer of GTA, Geoff took the organisation and made it into the peak body representing all the trade at an industry level.
"He was widely respected as a person who could effect change.
"He discharged his duties in servicing his membership in a very effective and efficient manner.
"Our thoughts are with Geoff's family and his small team in Sydney at this time."
Mr Honey leaves children Rob, Laura and Georgia and wife Lucy Broad, who is also well known in Australian agriculture as an experienced journalist who works in strategic communications with Cox Inall Communications.
Friends and colleagues who attended his funeral were asked to donate to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which Mr Honey had admired and supported, in lieu of flowers.