FRESH from setting up a new bulk grain port terminal in Bunbury, Western Australia, Bunge Australia has announced plans for a 450,000 tonne a year export facility in Geelong, Victoria.
Similar to its Bunbury plan, it will utilise existing infrastructure in its construction. It will be situated on a site owned by woodchip exporter Midway and will use a woodchip loader on the site that is currently not operating at capacity.
The Bunge site will be situated at Corio Quay North, near GrainCorp's Geelong site, the largest exporter of grain in Victoria. It will be a road-only site.
Bunge Australia general manager Chris Aucote said the decision making process in focusing on Geelong was similar to the reason the company had decided to set up at Bunbury.
"Like Bunbury, we decided on Geelong due to the capabilities of its port, complementary infrastructure and good transport access for grain supply."
He said with Geelong's status as a port hub for all commodities, a road-only site would be able to attract trucks with good back-loading possibilities for commodities such as fertiliser to go back upcountry.
Mr Aucote said the aim was to develop a low-cost and efficient site that would provide solid competition for grain from across south-eastern Australia.
"The new terminal is intended to assist Bunge to offer better prices to grain growers and better service to customers," Mr Aucote said.
He said the growing amount of independent bulk handlers and large on-farm storages throughout Victoria would provide a good accumulation network.
"On-farm storage is only going to get bigger, so we are not just focusing on sourcing grain from the large rail sites, and that will be one of our points of difference."
At present, Mr Aucote said the idea was most likely to focus on Bunge exports alone, but he said this could not be confirmed until more is known about Government policy on port access.
"We have to see whether there is a mandatory code of conduct for port operators, whether it will apply to smaller ports, itís really too early to say much on that front."
Bunge has applied to the City of Greater Geelong for planning permission to construct a grain receival facility and three storage silos that will connect to the current woodchip loader.
"We have had very good co-operation from Midway and Geelong Port, highlighting this projectís great advantage of utilising infrastructure that is already available, so we see this investment as being strongly positive," Mr Aucote said.
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) grains group president Brett Hosking said he was excited by the news.
"It's a good thing, we always like to see new investment, it is a sign that other people see a positive outlook for Victorian agriculture."
Mr Hosking said the port would provide good competition for growers, but added GrainCorp still had a very strong market position.
"Bunge has identified an opportunity within the market, but GrainCorp is still the major player."
Mr Aucote agreed, saying Bunge did not see the new facility as going head to head with the nearby GrainCorp site.
"As you can see from the tonnages, we will be a lot smaller, and the focus will be different as a road-only site."
Mr Hosking said he hoped the Bunge announcement would be complemented by investment in other links in the supply chain.
"We know we have issues with our rail network and we also need investment in road freight, the current State Government is promising upgrades for rail which would be most welcome, as we need the entire supply chain from paddock to port to run smoothly."
It is believed the development of the port will cost around $15-20 million.