A NEW grain container packing facility, predominantly serving customers in India, has been opened in Perth's southern suburbs.
While the business may be new, the family behind Pinnacle Grain Packers has been involved in the importing and exporting of grains, mainly oats, for 50 years.
Tarun Vij is the third generation in his family to be involved in a grains business in India and together with his wife Sonal, was able to not only expand their operations into Australia, but also start an entire new container packing company.
Initially, the business in India involved the selling of grain, mainly oats, from within the Indian market.
Then, in 2015, the company started importing a continuous supply of oats from WA into India, creating new market opportunities.
Ms Vij said when she started visiting Perth to explore the business possibility, she quickly started to get attached to the city.
"India is so populated and so dense, plus my husband was very busy with the business and was often away," Ms Vij said.
"I knew that the requirement of oats and other grains in India was huge with a population of 1.3 billion people and WA has a surplus of grain to export, so it seemed like a good option."
Just a couple of years later, the Vijs moved their lives to Perth and started operating the business from Australia.
In the first two years, they learned a lot and while it was a similar business to what they were running in India, it was on totally different parameters.
Once companies in India found out about the company's presence in Australia, they came onboard as customers and business started getting a lot busier.
At that stage, other packers were being used to send WA oats to India, however as the orders picked up, it started to become viable to pack and ship their own containers.
It was at the end of 2020 that idea for Pinnacle Grain Packers was formed and now, over 12 months later, the new company officially packed its first two containers last Wednesday.
"I was getting a surplus of orders from India and I knew we wouldn't be able to feed our clients back in India with the small arrangement we had," Ms Vij said.
"We were always dependent on other packers to be able to fulfil those needs, so the logical expansion was to do it ourselves."
That expansion was not without its challenges and while securing the silos from Northam was straightforward, the conveyor equipment came from Canada and part of it was lost on a ship in Jamaica for three months.
With the equipment now all installed, Pinnacle Grain Packers has 10 silos with a total storage capacity of 1200 tonnes of oats, or 1500t of wheat, which will allow them to export 80,000 to 100,000t per year.
Some of the grain to fill those silos has been bought directly from growers through local connections, but the majority of contacts have come through brokers.
Pinnacle Grain Packers logistics manager Rodney Cousins said they would rather deal with farmers who have their own onsite storage.
"We offer a level of flexibility which larger storage and handling companies aren't able to provide, plus the grower has a bit more control over the process too," Mr Cousins said.
"At the moment we don't do any processing of grains, however our intention is to put extra equipment in within the next year so we can also grade grain."
Currently, the company has a couple of thousand tonnes of oats available to ship out, but are running behind due to shipping issues.
For every booking they make, they get a vessel and a date, but that date is often changed six or seven times and sometimes the vessel is altered as well, so it bypasses them entirely.
Looking forward, Pinnacle Grain Packers has two main goals which both centre around increasing the customer base and capabilities of the business.
"We want to increase our marketing in India to pick up other clients and customers which have already expressed an interest," Ms Vij said.
"We also want to get involved in packing containers for other companies with other grains, which again we have already had people express an interest in with one customer wanting us to pack lupins."
While Pinnacle Grain Packers isn't quite ready to fulfil that requirement yet, as the system which shuts one silo off from another allowing for different grain to be stored isn't operational yet, the gear is all there and just needs to be wired up.
Meaning within a month or two the couple will be in a position to store and pack other grains and will be well on its way to achieving its goals.
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