Balco in full swing post-blaze

Balco back on track after fire


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BIG CHANGE: Rob Lawson in the rebuilt shed, which has been expanded from 110 metres long to 195m.

BIG CHANGE: Rob Lawson in the rebuilt shed, which has been expanded from 110 metres long to 195m.

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THE rebuild of Balco’s hay processing facility that was gutted by a fire last year is not only complete, the company has used the project as an opportunity to expand its storage capacity.

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THE rebuild of Balco’s hay processing facility that was gutted by a fire last year is not only complete, the company has used the project as an opportunity to expand its storage capacity.

On January 28, 2017, a fire broke out at Balco’s site at Bowmans, with the blaze burning for three days.

While the fire was contained, by the time it was under control millions of dollars worth of damage had been done.

The cause of the fire was never officially determined.

Balco chief executive officer Rob Lawson said the total damage bill, which was covered by insurance, worked out close to $15 million.

LAST YEAR: Balco CEO Rob Lawson in the front of the gutted hay processing facility at Bowmans.

LAST YEAR: Balco CEO Rob Lawson in the front of the gutted hay processing facility at Bowmans.

During the rebuild, Balco converted one of its storage sheds into a production facility and bought a second-hand press machine from NSW.

The company also rebuilt one press that was able to be restored after the fire.

Staff in SA and at the company’s WA facility in Brookton worked seven-day rosters to keep input up.

“It meant we could continue to supply the market across the rebuild period,” Mr Lawson said.

“While we didn’t sell our normal tonnages, we still managed to supply the market throughout the year.”

Mr Lawson said the response from overseas customers had been outstanding, as they worked with the company, allowed it to supply reduced tonnages while retaining it as a supplier.

Balco took the opportunity during the rebuild to expand the burnt-out shed by an extra 85 metres.

“We elected, at Balco’s cost, to expand the production shed,” Mr Lawson said.

“It was 110 metres long and it’s now 195m long, for extra hay storage.”

The rebuilt shed also contains a new state-of-the-art press machine, which was built locally in SA.

Mr Lawson said he was grateful to farmers for their willingness to put less hay crops in the ground in 2017, which allowed the company to manage its carryover situation.

“Growers worked with us during the 2017 season to reduce the hectares in the ground, and we’re very appreciative of that,” he said.

“This year we’re well and truly back and producing large amounts of hay at the Bowmans site.”

Mr Lawson said demand was still relatively strong from overseas markets for Australian hay.

“China is still growing but at a slower rate than previously,” he said.

“Oaten hay is being grown in China reasonably successfully, but that’s more in the northern areas.

“There’s still quite a considerable road freight cost from the northern to southern regions, so there’s definitely still an opportunity for Australia in those southern regions.”​

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