Co-operative Bulk Handling’s purchase of the Bergalla property near Muchea last year has proved an excellent investment for grain growers — potentially appreciating sixfold — according to chairman Wally Newman.
Speaking after CBH’s annual meeting and member forum on Friday, Mr Newman said CBH had been approached by external interests wanting to develop on the land near Brand Highway, acquired for an undisclosed sum after two years of research.
Mr Newman said this could take shape in the form of long-term leases, similar to that of the Metro Grains Centre in Forrestfield where other businesses, including BlueScope Steel and a container park, operate.
If the external inquiries came to fruition, that would effectively boost the property’s current sixfold, he said.
In terms of CBH’s own plans, he said Bergalla would be used as a freight hub but it was too early to know exactly how that would take shape.
“We’ll probably know by next year, but we’re looking long term — 20 or more years out,” he said.
“We grabbed it because it’s so critical to the grain network and to freight overall. It’s a pinch point where rail and road intersect.
“It will also play a key role in supplying the domestic market as there’s many chicken farmers and piggeries in the area north of Perth.”
Mr Newman confirmed the CBH board was not considering supporting an alternative proposal to the current multibillion-dollar bid for GrainCorp.
After Long-Term Asset Partners’ $2.4 billion bid for GrainCorp, it is understood several investment banks approached CBH about alternative proposals but Mr Newman said nothing was being considered by the board.
“WA growers are resistant to spending money on the east coast, preferring to keep CBH focused on storage and handling in WA,” he said.
Mr Newman said Premier Mark McGowan attended the cocktail party after the annual meeting, the first time he could remember since starting farming in the 1970s that a WA premier had been present.
“This is testimony to the current Government’s support for agriculture and signals the growing importance of the grain industry to the State,” he said.
He said farmers were upbeat after six consecutive exceptional growing seasons but warned the good run would not continue for ever.
“We need to remember this is extraordinary and not the norm,” he said.
“Our thoughts are with those on the east coast who are in the grips of a crippling drought. That could easily be WA farmers suffering these conditions.”