THE CONDITIONS were just right for the establishment of Berriwillock Grain, a storage and handling co-operative which was established in the southern Mallee township last year.
Deregulation meant there was a more diverse spread of buyers, while the dry in the western Riverina meant the successful Moulamein Co-operative from the NSW town was happy to come on board and help organise buyers to post prices for some of their buyers, who were not able to source grain out of the Riverina.
“It’s been a case of right place, right time,” said foundation member Kim Renney, who supplied the land right on the eastern edge of Berriwillock township for the 20-hectare site.
Fellow member Neil Luehman, central to getting the idea off the ground, agreed.
“The hardest part would be to develop a market and get buyers to post prices at the site, but Moulamein came on board and they had those buyers already who they were looking to service, so it worked in well.”
Mr Luehman said much of the grain went to domestic users that had developed a relationship with the Moulamein Co-op.
“It worked in well, because Moulamein could keep providing their clients with grain when there was none up there locally and we got the kick-start we needed,” he said.
The idea for the Berri co-op came about when, faced with deregulation of the wheat market, many local farmers were putting in big amounts of on-farm storage to store their grain on-farm.
“We’ve all got a lot of storage on-farm, and I felt rather than fork out $500,000 for more on-farm infrastructure, shareholders of a co-op could put in a one-off fee of less than $25,000 and then have access to the co-op storage, which would obviously be a lot larger than what can be done on-farm.”
The co-operative has thus far attracted close to 30 grower-members.
A site was found with good road access, and was developed to allow the co-op to put bunkers in. Much of the cost was in levelling off the site.
A site manager was imported from the Moulamein co-op and he ran the site as per a normal bulk storage over the harvest period.
The site took around 26,000 tonnes, mainly of wheat, but also some feed and malt barley in its first year.
“That’s not too bad in what wasn’t the best of years, with plenty of crops only going about two or three bags to the acre (0.4-0.6t/ha),” Mr Luehman said.
“Once we get a better year, the site could take quite a bit of grain.”
*Extract from report to appear in Stock & Land, May 14.
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