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THE disgraceful state of rural railways means grain growers could become uncompetitive and miss out on big profits from the Asian food boom, warns GrainCorp chairman Don Taylor.
The chairman of eastern Australia's biggest grains handler says urgent spending is needed on the railways.
"We don't have any right to benefit from the food boom; we have to earn it," Taylor tells [color=#1b759a][size=2][font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][i]The Australian Financial Review[/i].[/font][/size][/color]
"The Canadians want to participate in [the Asian food boom]. The Ukranians are investing and doing things to participate in it.
"We are doing nothing [for rail]. It's just going to pass us by."
A report by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre found many of the railways used to transport grain can only handle axle loads of between 16 tonnes and 19 tonnes, compared with 23 tonnes or more in Canada and the United States.
There are endless stories of trains taking up to nine hours to load or heading to port half empty because the tracks, mostly laid before the Federation, are not able to sustain the weight of the trains.
Some rail sleepers in Western Australia buckle in temperatures above 35 degrees, often forcing the nation's biggest grain exporter, CBH, to delay transporting grain until the arrival of cooler night-time temperatures.
Instead of farmers getting rich from a food boom and spreading the benefits throughout the economy, growers are worried rising costs associated with decaying infrastructure will eat into thinning profit margins.
Taylor, who is also acting GrainCrop chief executive, is considering new rail investments for GrainCorp's infrastructure.
But he needs government to support state-owned infrastructure too.
"There's no point investing if we can't get the government to invest in the rail piece," he says.
Concern over rail infrastructure is echoed by the nation's biggest agricultural foreign investor, Cargill Australia, a subsidiary of America's biggest private company and global agriculture titan Cargill.
This article first appeared on www.farmweekly.com.au
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