CBH Group

Despite its success, CBH has had to face pressure from both external and internal forces to demutualise.

The extended version of this case study is presented in Australia’s Leading Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises in 2016, which is part of the CEMI Discussion Paper series.

The grain industry is one of Australia’s oldest and largest agribusiness sectors… Australian grain producers are predominately family owned farms that employ small, usually casual and seasonal, workforces.

There are at least 116 bulk grain storage and handling businesses operating in Australia. However, once again the same five companies dominate the market. CBH is the most significant player followed closely by GrainCorp.

Founded in 1933, CBH is a non-distributing co-operative owned by its 4,200 members who are independent grain growers located in Western Australia. The company operates its own fleet of railway locomotives and rolling stock for bulk grain transport. With 1,200 employees it is one of the largest employers in the state.

Despite its success, CBH has had to face pressure from both external and internal forces to demutualise. In 2000 a minority group of members, with the backing of third-party interests sought to demutualise the co-operative. More recently, CBH has experienced a challenge from a minority group of members known as Australian Grain Champions (AGC).

CBH is not only Australia’s largest co-operative by annual turnover, it is also one of the most significant agribusiness firms in the nation and a major player in the grains industry. In 2014/15 CBH contributed around $2.98 billion to the WA state economy.