THE OILSEED industry in Central Queensland looks to be staging a comeback, with stockfeed manufacturer, Energreen Nutrition, putting forward plans to construct a crushing plant at Yamala.
Murray & Associates, on behalf of Energreen, lodged a development application with the Central Highlands Regional Council to build a facility capable of processing 200 tonnes of oilseed per day.
The facility will be suited to crushing cottonseed, sunflower, soybean and safflower.
It is anticipated that cottonseed will drive initial production due to its high availability in the CQ.
The maximum level of throughput will produce about 60t of oil and 140t of meal per day.
However, the estimated initial daily capacity is seen at 100t.
The facility is to be located in the Central Queensland Inland Port precinct, located 25km east Emerald.
Officially opened in October last year, the site is already home to a Louis Dreyfus Company cotton gin and a GrainCorp bulk handling facility.
The LDC gin produces about 25,000t of cottonseed a year, some of which could be crushed locally.
Product from the facility would have the opportunity to access Port of Brisbane via the adjacent intermodal terminal.
New value-added markets
Energreen Nutrition has affiliations with existing oilseed crushing companies, New South Wales-based Cootamundra Oilseeds and the Soon Soon Group, located in Malaysia.
The CQ plant will enable the company to have its own manufacturing capability and open up new value-added markets for Australian-grown oilseeds.
“This facility will produce edible oil feedstocks to meet the growing Asia-Pacific market and bio-diesel feedstock to fuel the renewable energy revolution,” the development application said.
“Energreen seeks to support the growth of its oilseed agricultural products through the development of its domestic capabilities to deliver an internationally capable export industry and unlock Central Queensland’s bio futures sector through the success of this project.
“This will be achieved by bringing the productive capacity and supply-chain efficiency that will enable the expansion of domestic oilseed production and the commercial potential of oilseed products.”
Oilseed area expansion
The company has reportedly been consulting with industry groups, seed producers, potential customers and CQ agronomists and growers for several months to test the interest in the proposal.
Energreen predicts that CQ currently produces 40,000-50,000t of seed per year and believes the region has the capacity to significantly increase this output.
Historically, CQ was a key oilseed producer, primarily of sunflowers and soybeans.
“Central Queensland used to be a core sunflower-producing area; in fact, Emerald used to be called the sunflower capital,” Australian Oilseeds Federation executive officer Nick Goddard said.
He said the closure of up-country crushing plants, meant the closest facility for CQ growers is in Newcastle.
“The freight from Central Queensland to Newcastle just killed the industry.”
Mr Goddard said sunflower growers also had to battle tobacco streak virus which hit sunflower crops about 10 years ago.
He said thanks to breeding programs that produced resistant varieties and the possibility of a new crushing plant, there was nothing standing in the way of a sunflower production resurgence in CQ.
“Those two things address why there is no sunflower industry up there now.
“There is interest and there is knowledge there; it is looking positive.”
Mr Goddard said a crushing facility would also provide new markets to the small amount of growers who currently produce sunflowers.
He said most of the current production goes to the birdseed market.
Mr Goddard said soybeans should also see some area gains.
He said soybean meal, like cottonseed meal, has strong markets in the livestock industry in Australia and overseas.
New crop opportunities
Energreen’s plans include crushing a relatively new crop, super high-oleic safflower.
Although only a small amount is currently grown in CQ and primarily on a trial basis, it is anticipated that there would be increased interest when the crushing plant becomes operational.
AOF predicts that up to 20,000ha of safflower was planted across Australia for the 2022-23 season, mostly in NSW and Victoria.
Mr Goddard said the spring-planted crop was drought tolerant and could provide more choice for CQ growers when water availability was low.
“Safflower has had a bit of a resurgence in this country with the new super oleic varieties.
“They have a broad planting window and fit well into a rotation, particularly if there is a bit of a water shortage.”
Project needs industry support
Mr Goddard said industry support will be needed to boost production of these oilseeds in CQ.
He said the low production of crops like sunflowers and safflower means the community was lacking in the knowledge and skills required to grow disease-free, high-yielding crops.
“We as an industry, and with GRDC support, will need to look at rebuilding capability among the agronomy sector up there to make sure there is the support.
“We certainly need to build capability among the agronomist community in that area.
“It will be a great opportunity for the industry.”
It is estimated that Australia currently crushes around 1.2 million tonnes of oilseeds each year, the vast majority of which is canola.
Behind canola, cottonseed has the second-biggest crush of any oilseed in Australia.
Energreen is awaiting Council approvals before it can move forward with constructing the crushing facility.
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