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Grain delivery at a CBH receival bin. Picture: Danella Bevis/Countryman.
Grain delivery at a CBH receival bin. Picture: Danella Bevis/Countryman.

CHB has hailed a record profit of $162.4 million as a huge boost for WA grain growers as it strives to keep storage and handling costs well below those in the rest of the country.

The profit, recorded on the back of a record 15 million tonne harvest in 2011-12, represents a turnaround of almost $184 million on 2011's $21.4 million loss.

Australia's biggest co-operative revealed the windfall from the bumper harvest in its annual report released to members this week.

Revenue from grain handling services more than doubled from $223.2 million to $530.2 million as the size of the harvest jumped by 8.5 million tonnes on the previous year.

CBH chief executive Andy Crane said the marketing and trading division had also recorded a stronger result, boosted by higher commodity prices and supply shortages in key grain growing regions, including the US and Russia.

Dr Crane said it was important to remember that the record profit would be returned "one way or another" to WA grain growers.

In addition to the regular annual commitment of $85 million on capital expenditure, the CBH board had set aside $40 million over the next three years to speed up turnaround times at receival sites in response to lobbying from growers.

Dr Crane warned of a challenging year ahead after a disappointing harvest of about 9.1 million tonnes this season, but said growers were set to reap even greater savings from CBH's $175 million investment in a new rail fleet.

The introduction of a new rail operator and the fleet of 22 locomotives and 574 wagons has already resulted in an average reduction of about 7 per cent in freight rates. CBH believes those savings could double once the transition is complete. "Our prime job is to cut the cost of getting our growers' grain to market and we have been able to hold those supply chain fees flat," Dr Crane said.

It was estimated that WA growers paid about $12 a tonne less than the $40 paid by growers in the east.

Dr Crane said there was no doubt that CBH was investing many times more than other bulk handlers or marketers in maintaining and upgrading infrastructure.

He said CBH was preparing to handle deliveries of up to 20 million tonnes by 2020 as farmers continued to improve their yields.

CBH Grain, the co-operative's marketing arm, shipped more than $2.6 billion in grain last year, up from $1.5 billion in 2011 despite a drop of almost 10 per cent in its accumulation of the WA crop to just over 40 per cent.

The West Australian

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