WEST PERTH, AUSTRALIA — The value to growers of the CBH Group’s cooperative structure was clearly evident in the 2011 financial year as it kept charges low but maintained high levels of network investment despite the financial impact of the 2010-11 drought in Western Australia, CBH said on Jan. 30.

CBH Group Chairman Neil Wandel said the 2011 Annual Report just distributed to the cooperative’s 4,700 grower members underlined CBH’s priority of creating and returning value to growers.

“Despite a financially challenging year in 2010-11, CBH kept increases in storage and handling fees to a minimum for 2011-12 after holding them flat for three years,” Wandel said. “We also reinvested another A$97.3 million in capital expenditure and maintenance on the network in 2011 ahead of this year’s big harvest, ensuring we can continue to meet growers’ needs, now and in the future. We continue to provide growers and customers of Western Australian grain with the lowest cost, most reliable grain export supply chain in the nation.”

CBH Group Chief Executive Officer Dr. Andrew Crane said the challenging year had underlined the importance of the business efficiency drive undertaken by CBH in 2010 and 2011, resulting in a timely reduction in its breakeven point coinciding with the small crop.

Crane said the value of the cooperatives’ growth along the grain value chain had also been evident in the 2011 financial year as a strong performance from its flour mills in South East Asia helped partially offset the impact of the poor 2010-11 season in WA and trading losses.

“Our investment in the Interflour Group performed very strongly with Interflour achieving a profit after tax of A$14.7 million attributable to the CBH Group, and entitling us to a record US$12 million cash return,” Crane said.

“Our downstream investments played a key role in minimizing the Group loss in a financial year where we were hit by one of the worst droughts ever in Western Australia, and exceptionally difficult trading and logistics conditions for all marketers operating in eastern Australia.”

Crane said CBH’s performance in the year to Sept. 30, 2011 largely reflected the 2010-11 season and a much improved financial result was in store in 2012 following the record-breaking 14.9 million tonne harvest just completed in Western Australia. Growers would also start to see the benefit of their cooperative’s A$175 million investment in new rail rolling stock, which will begin in the coming weeks.

“The coming year will be a very exciting, if challenging year, for CBH,” Crane said. “We will store, handle and market the biggest crop in Western Australia’s history and will fully implement our rail strategy, with benefits to flow to growers from 2013.”

CBH members are invited to attend its 79th Annual General Meeting on Feb. 28 at Kings Park Function Centre, West Perth. Refreshments will be provided afterwards to celebrate the United Nations 2012 Year of Co-operatives and the Australian Year of the Farmer.