Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Grain Industry Logistics Conference Instils Confidence for Growers

Apart from having the flu, I had a great weekend. Poor old Tom Watson got the wobbles on the 72nd hole, I fell asleep on the couch when the guy I had backed, Lee Westwood, was leading by 2 strokes – I thought I had the money in the bag.

I thought the industry took a great leap forward last Thursday with a great conference on Grain Industry Logistics organised by the AAAC last week. Sure it was a talk fest, but the difference was discussion revolved, finding the best solution for the longer-term industry benefit. Growers had a chance to hear from both sides of the fence and be involved in the decision making process.

This is quite different from pre-deregulation days when decisions (some right and some wrong) were made behind closed doors. Mistakes were covered up and any successes were overstated.

There is nothing wrong with debate. People have different views based on their industry position, personality, background and training and everyone needs to respect that. But growers are also entitled to hear different perspectives that are not churned out by industry funded propaganda machines. Focussed debate is healthy.

A better informed industry is an industry with better prospects. But what is lacking is a formal decision making process. On CBH matters it is the CBH board, and who does the CBH board take advice from?

But CBH isn’t the only player anymore. Increasingly we will have a diverse industry with a diverse range of issues. So what about matters where CBH is only one stakeholder, then it becomes the state Government or an even higher power. How do we read the temperature of the grower and find out what he thinks after he has been given all the facts and arguments?

For example there is clearly divided opinion on the level of information CBH should release to the market. The natural reaction is to say don’t tell anyone anything or to maintain the status quo. This is the easy option, and certainly many think it is the best way to go. But is this in the best interests of our industry longer term?

With my training I have learnt that markets work better when they are provided with information. Multi-nationals like to work in an environment of certainty, it makes decision making easier. But this is an argument for another day.

The purpose of the rant this week is to congratulate the industry for taking a step forward and at least be prepared to debate tough issues (the last bloke I heard that got his head stuck in the sand suffocated himself). And be prepared for more of the same as our industry goes through momentous, but well overdue, change.

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