Viterra Enters Canola-Crushing Business

A Manitoba canola-crushing plant with a checkered past has a new owner who promises a bright future for the facility.

Viterra Inc. last week held a grand opening for its canola crush operation which it purchased earlier this year from Associated Proteins LP.

It’s Viterra’s first venture into the canola-crushing business but likely not the last. Mayo Schmidt, president and CEO, said the company would consider expansion if prospects prove favourable.

“If that opportunity exists, we are considering that at this time,” Schmidt said following an official ribbon-cutting ceremony July 28.

The plant is currently operating at a full crush capacity of 1,000 tonnes of canola seed a day. About 1,300 producers deliver canola to the plant through a farm program. The facility receives canola grown on 400,000 acres in the province, according to Viterra officials.

Located 40 km south of Winnipeg on a CN main railway line, the cold-press plant is strategically located to serve markets in Canada the United States, Schmidt said.

“We believe this is one of the best located plants in the country (with) proximity to Canadian demand, U. S. demand and also the logistics and transportation network.”

The plant produces cooking oil, as well as canola meal as a livestock feed for the hog and dairy industries. The products are marketed throughout North America.

The plant was originally constructed in 1997 as Canadian Agra Inc. by Helmut Sieber, a German entrepreneur. But it never went into production and fell into receivership later that year.

Ellis Don, the original contractor, took ownership of the plant through court proceedings but did not start up production, either.

As sociated Proteins, an Ontario-based investor group, bought the plant in 2005 and began producing crude canola oil, adding a refinery the following year. Fully refined canola oil began coming out of the plant in January 2007.

Viterra obtained the plant in June 2009 at a cost of $64 million plus working capital, Schmidt said.

The plant will generate 25 per cent of Viterra’s food-processing revenue, he said. Viterra, Canada’s largest grain handler, is also an oat processor and a feed manufacturer.

“We see it as the foundation for development of further value-added processing in our organization,” said Schmidt. [email protected]

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