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GrainCorp has announced it will close three of its grain receival sites in southern NSW at Ariah Park, Boorowa and Matong.
The sites will be closed as the company wants growers to deliver to major grain hubs that are larger and faster.
For the 2016-17 harvest, Ariah Park received 14,000 tonnes of grain and Boorowa and Matong 5,000 tonne each.
Grower Rod Hatty, who has delivered grain to the Matong site since 1956, is not happy with GrainCorp's focus on 'larger and faster'.
"I think it's a backward move for both farmers and GrainCorp," Mr Hatty said.
Mr Hatty said the closure would force him to look at new options for delivery.
"We usually deliver canola to Matong and other grain to Grong Grong, but now we will have to look at other sites as the line-ups could be a problem when delivering to Grong Grong," he said.
"Also, the type of storage it offers is an issue as they don't take all grades.
"We will have to cart our grain further now to Ardlethan, to other companies, not just GrainCorp at Matong and Grong Grong where I have delivered grain for most of my life."
Mr Hatty said it was difficult to fathom why GrainCorp wouldn't utilise its Matong grain facility.
"It's strange that our grandfathers could build the silos with picks and shovels and horses and drays, and with modern equipment these days they can't even build a decent system to fill and empty them. That's the problem," he said.
Mr Hatty said the D150, or 15,000 tonne capacity, steel bulkhead was aerated and stored canola.
"It's a good shed with aeration which is a big advantage over modern storage, in particular grain stored under plastic on the ground or in silo bags where there are issues with grain getting hot," he said.
"It's a pity not to use an aerated shed."
GrainCorp silos at Grong Grong in southern NSW.
(ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery)
Planned upgrades failed to happenMr Hatty said the silo closure will cost farmers time at harvest.
"GrainCorp is arguing they want it in bigger sites where they can reduce the time and load trains quicker, but they've failed to do the upgrade," he said.
"Now to lose Matong as well, we are only getting pushed further and further [out] and if they don't have a quick turnaround time at Grong Grong there are other companies within reasonable distance growers will deliver to if we don't get reasonable service."
Mr Hatty believes GrainCorp will close more silos.
"Their aims seem to be to reduce the sites all the time and put the cost on the growers and reduce the cost to GrainCorp. This is of no benefit for the grower," he said.
"They tell us that they are going to reduce our freight cost but we don't see much of it."
Mr Hatty thinks it is unlikely Matong would reopen in the future.
"I think its more likely that another body might be interested in leasing that site if GrainCorp would let them have it," he said.
"They have done it with some other sites, but of course it means it reduces the amount of grain GrainCorp gets and a lot of growers around here bought shares in GrainCorp.
"One of our biggest hopes in buying those shares would be that we would maintain a better storage and handling system that looked after us a bit better.
"But now GrainCorp has been taken over by other shareholders and are selling us down the drain."
GrainCorp released a statement in relation to the closures of its Matong and Boorowa sites:
GrainCorp can confirm that both Boorowa and Matong in southern NSW won't be operating this year.
In a record year, the sites only received 5,000 tonnes each and both are located close to much larger and faster sites.
We must ensure our investment and operations are focused on where growers have demonstrated they want to deliver.
Keeping underused and slow sites open would dilute our investment and ability to provide efficient and quality service.
Faster turnaround times and access to rail are the priority for growers.
Harvest haul back on the roadsAriah Park has a proud claim to fame in the grains industry, being the first town in Australia to fill a train carriage with bulk grain bound for Sydney.
Since that time, 100 years and cropping seasons have passed where grain has been delivered to its silos and hauled out on rail.
But this season will be different, and fourth generation grower John Walker is disappointed.
"Last year we filled the facility and we are hoping for another good harvest this season," Mr Walker said.
He said he would now have to deliver his grain to Temora, an 80-kilometre round trip or just under two hours in a truck, which did not include waiting and unloading time.
At Ariah Park, Mr Walker said depending on the line-up of trucks the turnaround time is generally about half an hour.
He said the silo closure would impact the small community.
Mr Walker said 20 farmers attended a meeting held by GrainCorp where they were told the silos would not operate this harvest.
"We were told the decision was final and now I'm considering other options," he said.
"If GrainCorp don't really want to do business with us in Ariah Park then we will look to take our business elsewhere."
Mr Walker said it was evident GrainCorp wanted to create major grain hubs.
"They have closed three other sites on the railway line between Temora and Ardlethan, and all indictors point to another silo closing between Ariah Park and Ardlethan in the future," he said.
Mr Walker said the closure means another 500 semi-trailer loads of grain would need to be transported by road rather than rail from the town.
"It means more cost and more time for growers on top of grain prices that aren't very good," he said.
"They are all costs to the grower that GrainCorp is not sharing."
Site no longer viable: GrainCorpGrainCorp corporate affairs manager Angus Trigg said the Ariah Park site was no longer economically or logistically viable.
"We've made the decision to close Ariah Park as growers have really voted with their feet," he said.
"Over the last few years, the site received about 10 times less then sites in the network in that region.
Mr Trigg said the Ariah Park site was a slow inload and outload compared to alternative sites for growers at Temora and Ardlethan which could load a train in two hours versus the 12 hours it took to load a train at Ariah Park.
"Logistically, Ariah Park is a complex site. It is a slow inload and it struggles to keep up pace as growers have invested in rapid harvesting equipment.
"It's a slow outload as well at about 180 tonnes an hour for both road and rail.
"It requires significant investment, and given what it receives is not really commercially sustainable."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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