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HANGING in the foyer of Riordan Grain is a framed reminder of the game-changing day the Lara firm loosened the hold of the grain trade’s super heavyweights on the bulk grain export industry.
In loading the TAI Success at Geelong’s Lascelles Wharf from a pioneering mobile bulk loading system, Riordan Grain injected a lean, new competitor into the bulk export market.
In giving farmers a choice other than the two major players, the company accelerated its growth and cemented its position as one of the state’s largest grain marketing, transport and storage companies and a leading force in the agriculture industry.
Since the first shipment 14 months ago, Riordan Grain has loaded a further 14 ships and exported about 430,000 tonnes of product.
Despite the wariness of regulators and industry naysayers, managing director Jim Riordan said the company’s processes and mobile bulk loading system were working fine.
“It has been a success in that it’s been successful for the business, and successful for the marketplace,” he said.
“(But) we took a lot of risk on to get the reward.”
Managing director of Riordan Grains Jim Riordan. Picture: Peter RistevskiEach bulk shipping load requires a battery of trucks to deliver to the port, with Riordans employing a raft of about 70 contractors in support of its own transport fleet which now runs to 50 trucks.
Further jobs are created in using GeelongPort from where most of the ships sail.
“We guess it’s probably been around 80 jobs through the supply chain that would have been created,” he said.
“We created some real opportunity for people to come and help us do it.”
Mr Riordan is driven by a fierce desire to create competition for farmers in a deregulated marketplace.
“We have a deregulated marketplace but up until now we haven’t had a deregulated supply chain,” he said.
Getting authorities comfortable with Riordan Grain’s processes has been a frustrating part of the battle but Mr Riordan is aware that as a disrupter in the marketplace, there needs to be an established export flow path that satisfies all parts of industry and regulatory authorities.
“We have proven that you can supply customers what they want with a new flow path to markets offshore that they may not have wanted or been able to participate in till now due to a lack of competition,” he said.
“(But) if we continue to create competition for the growers, if we continue to create competition in the supply chain, if we meet all the quarantine obligations and meet all the market expectations, what’s the problem?”
The bumper harvests of last year triggered the company’s entry into bulk shipping after four years of planning and patience to ensure the business had the people and infrastructure to deal with the opportunity.
Ship "Tai Success" contracted by transport operator Jim Riordan is loaded with grain at Lascelles Wharf near Geelong. Photo: Dannika BonserWith the two main players at capacity, the time was right to move.
In 2017, Riordan Grain exported about 200,000 tonnes in the container trade with the mobile bulk loading operation adding a massive 315,000 tonnes in exports. A further 250,000 went to domestic markets.
Over the last eight years the rapidly growing company has developed a much larger footprint in its storage and handling division, more than doubling its staff to about 70 full-time and 30 casual employees.
Mr Riordan, a Marcus Oldham graduate who began the company as a single truck operator out of Winchelsea in 1996, is at pains to point out their contribution to his company’s achievements.
“A business like this can’t grow unless it’s got good staff who have all got the same vision,” he said.
“I have always been mindful that there have been a lot of people in the background who have helped me.”Included in that are the growers.
“We are fighting for the best price for them … or to have system that allows competition to create a price,” Mr Riordan said.
In return, they had shown support for his business.
“We were the ones who stood up and said we will have a go at it,” he said. “I think there is a fair bit of support for that.”
While the mobile bulk grain loading business has added an important pillar to his business, organic growth over the years has come from providing a professional service and continually trying to be “better at what we are good at”.
“At the end of the day if you have a certain vision for the marketplace to create competition in what we do and try and operate it as professionally as possible in a deregulated marketplace, it will drive growth.
“If I look back at the start, and look at where we are today, in all aspects of what we have tried to do is be as professional and trustworthy as we can.”
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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