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GrainCorp eyes rebound as farmers plant biggest crops in six years

The ASX-listed GrainCorp is a bulk handler, storer, trader and exporter of grains and oilseeds, with operations in four different continents and a market capitalisation of about $800 million.

It is also a different business to what it was six months ago, after the recent demerger of its malt operations into another separate, ASX-listed agribusiness called United Malt Group.

Mr Spurway was tapped for the CEO role in December last year after a six-month global search, taking up the role as many of Australia’s east coast grain growing regions were being savaged by drought.

But heavy rain in many farming regions this year has restored confidence among growers, grain prices have risen noticeably and farmers are planting bigger crops in a bid to capitalise on the conditions and prices.

The sector has also benefited from a substantial weakening in the Australian dollar. On December 9 last year, when Mr Spurway’s appointment was announced, the Australian dollar was buying US68.23¢. On Tuesday it was about 7.6 per cent lower at US63.06¢.

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While COVID-19 restrictions have prevented Mr Spurway from having in-person meetings with staff and stakeholders, he has held many video conferences and done virtual tours of GrainCorp’s country sites.

“I’ve been sent plenty of pictures of farmers with big smiles on their faces, sitting in tractors busily ploughing and planting crops. So that’s great to see, and it builds the confidence across our business as well,” he said.

Mr Spurway, who has had a lengthy career in the food industry including senior roles at the companies Goodman Fielder Australia and Mrs Crocket’s Kitchen, said he was pleased that governments had classified agriculture as an essential service and that GrainCorp was able to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Asked whether COVID-19 had impacted on demand for grain, Mr Spurway said overall demand was “slightly up”.

GrainCorp shares ended Tuesday’s session down 2.3 per cent at $3.38 apiece.

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