Viterra silo and bunker closure concerns raised at Eudunda meeting

Viterra silo and bunker closure concerns raised at Eudunda meeting


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DISAPPOINTED: John Milde, Eudunda, and Simon Niemz, Robertstown, are unhappy with Viterra's decision to close the Eudunda bunkers and Robertstown silos.

DISAPPOINTED: John Milde, Eudunda, and Simon Niemz, Robertstown, are unhappy with Viterra's decision to close the Eudunda bunkers and Robertstown silos.

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VITERRA officials were met with a disgruntled room of graingrowers at Eudunda on Friday, with those at the public meeting voicing their disdain at the company's decision to cease operations at the Robertstown silos and Eudunda bunkers.

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VITERRA officials were met with a disgruntled room of graingrowers at Eudunda on Friday, with those at the public meeting voicing their disdain at the company's decision to cease operations at the Robertstown silos and Eudunda bunkers.

With limited capacity at the Eudunda silos, many growers are facing the prospect of delivering much of their grain to Roseworthy, 55 kilometres from Eudunda and 76km from Robertstown respectively.

This has sparked concerns about delivery and turnaround times, freight costs and capacity, as well as farmer fatigue and road safety.

Among those voicing their concerns were Simon Niemz, Robertstown, Simon Schmidt, Worlds End, and Eudunda growers Ron and John Milde.

Mr Niemz owns a 12-tonne truck and said he could previously cart 10 loads a day into Robertstown during harvest.

"We might get 40t a day to Eudunda or Saddleworth (given Roberstown will be closed) and that's only two hours of reaping," he said.

"We're going to have to find a way, somehow, to get our grain away to prevent stalling.

"It's going to cost us anything from $15,000 to $20,000 a year to get a carrier to cart our grain away because we're not going to be able to keep up."

While Mr Niemz said he had accepted that Robertstown would not open again, he was fearful for the future of the Eudunda silos.

"My fear is Viterra won't maintain the upkeep of the Eudunda silos and that site will be closed within two years as well," he said.

Viterra downplayed that concern at the meeting, stating the Eudunda silos were open.

Ron Milde said growers in the region believed the 13,000t Eudunda silos would not have the storage capacity to keep up with receivals during peak harvest time.

"The Eudunda silos will have nowhere near enough storage for growers in the region, particularly given the closure of Robertstown, and will lead to a host of issues when everybody streams to Roseworthy," he said.

"If you're going to close Robertstown, that's going to bring another 15,000t to Eudunda and elsewhere."

Although Viterra said they would outload from Eudunda during harvest with multiple outturn points available, growers said the intake process was too slow and the site too congested to make that an effective strategy.

"If we get a good year, trucks won't be available to outload the grain because farmers will have them signed up to cart their grain into the silos," Mr Milde said.

While growers are also being encouraged to cart to Roseworthy where there will be an extra 50,000t of capacity added, many at the meeting said they had experienced four to six-hour waits at the site and would have difficulty convincing carriers to deliver there.

Mr Milde was also wary of the flow-on effects like farmer and driver fatigue caused by longer carting times. These concerns were shared by passionate Worlds End grower Simon Schmidt at the meeting.

"What price can you put on someone's life?" he said.

"They will push more trucks onto the road by making everybody go to Roseworthy and my minimum turnaround time to go there would be five hours and that's if I could get in and out in half an hour.

"This is not well thought through. We don't have options as a farmer - we need to get our crops off.

"There's a reason the bunkers were built at Eudunda - for extra capacity."

Mr Schmidt said he wanted Viterra to decide on small site closures on a season-by-season basis, potentially opening them during average to big years.

"To rule those sites out completely is a recipe for disaster," he said.

Viterra operations manager central region Jack Tansley said the company appreciated the decision to no longer operate the Robertstown silos and the Eudunda bunkers had caused concern in the community, but the sites wouldn't play a future role in the network.

Viterra pointed to slow elevation capacity, small weighbridges, a limited ability to handle larger trucks, ageing electrical infrastructure and less capacity to manage food safety as reasons for the closure of small sites.Mr Tansley said Eudunda, Roseworthy and Saddleworth would be the delivery options for Eudunda and Robertstown growers.

He said extended operating hours at Roseworthy, as well as increased storage, classification, processing and elevation capacity would ensure decent turnaround times there.

"At Roseworthy, we have purchased land and are currently building an additional 50,000t of bunker storage for the 2019-20 harvest, with the ability to build another 50,000t in future," he said.

"We have constructed more storage so the fourth classification lane, previously used for overflow, will be available for receival classification, equating to a 25 per cent increase in transactions an hour."

With some growers voicing their confusion as to why Viterra would not consider using the Eudunda bunkers, Mr Tansley said it came down to best utilising the bunker and stacker equipment.

"In the big 2016-17 year that bunker was only filled to 30pc of its volume and we want that equipment located where it can be best utilised," he said.

Growers argued the Robertstown silos were open and full during that harvest, and were not satisfied with the overall narrative provided by the grain handler at the public meeting.

"I was disappointed in Viterra because they didn't want to properly answer any of the questions which were put to them on Friday," Mr Niemz said.

"When it came to upgrading and maintaining the Eudunda silos - they need to improve it because there'll be more trucks coming - they wanted nothing to do with it."

Mr Milde said growers in the region would continue to voice their displeasure with the decision.

"If they get enough pressure they may have to reconsider so we will continue to push this issue."

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