SOUTH Australia’s only oilseed crusher Squib Group is set to expand with its purchase of both Viterra sites at Millicent in the state’s South East district.
Offered for sale by SA’s major bulk handler through CBRE, the sites were purchased for $1.75 million in total and have added 140,000 tonnes of storage capacity to Squib Group.
Owned by brothers Malcolm and Thomas Earl, the business bought the smaller Viterra silo site last year before taking possession of Viterra’s major Millicent site last week.
As local farmers, the Earl family has moved into canola crushing as a means of value adding their canola, and filling the void left when GrainCorp closed its Millicent canola-crushing plant in favour of expansion at its Numurkah site in Victoria.
Malcolm Earl said the move left the district’s dairies without a local source of canola meal, and the Earl family’s piggery without a source of oil and meal.
“I felt we should be value adding something, and if we started a feedmill, that was a good way to do it,” Malcolm Earl said.
Option for growers
Viterra’s closure of the Millicent site has made the GrainCorp site at Naracoorte, around 100 kilometres away by road, the closest delivery point for canola.
Mr Earl said having more storage in Millicent will allow Squib to purchase more seed from growers as the business expands its crush capacity.
“We’re doing 30-40t per day at the moment.
“The intention is to go to 100t a day in seed.”
The Earls started by crushing their own canola, and are now buying from a handful of local farmers.
“Every farmer pretty well sells at harvest, and if you don’t buy it at harvest, you can’t buy it later.
“There might be 10,000-15,000t of canola seed grown in this area, and most of it has to get trucked to Naracoorte.
“It would be good to keep it local.”
Squib offers growers prices and terms in line with those from other market competitors, with bonification paid for oil of more than 42pc.
Mr Earl said the support of growers, including the Gilbertson family of Rendelsham, has been invaluable.
“Without them we wouldn’t have got going.”
Transition to crushing
Malcolm Earl is an electrician by trade, and spent 12 years working away in mining.
This, combined with combined engineering abilities and a good dose of Earl perseverance, has helped Squib Group move into processing.
“We bought a couple of old seed-cleaning sheds in Millicent, and went to China and got some gear,” Mr Earl said.
“We’ve designed our own facility.”
While not without its challenges, the Earls and their staff have now got operations running smoothly to the point where they are making lucerne pellets for horses, canola-meal pellets for beef cattle and sheep markets.
Hammer-milled grain also goes into some of their formulas, and the business also makes feed mixes.
However, canola meal and oil for stockfeed rations are Squib’s main products.
“A bit of oil goes around the area, and the canola meal is used by a lot of the dairies.”
The canola meal has 8 per cent oil, which provides more energy than meal produced by solvent extraction, the process used by large-scale plants.
Mr Earl said he hoped it could expand beyond the stockfeed market with its cold-pressed oil.
“We eventually want to get into human consumption.”
Viterra listed its Millicent sites for sale last year, and CBRE Agribusiness agents Phil Schell and Angus Bills handled the sale.
“COVID did slow things down, and while we had some corporate interests, the Earls were patient on getting the deal done,” Mr Schell said.
“The sites are within the town limits, and they have buffer zones around them, so they’re ideal for growers value-adding the district’s canola.”
“The grain season down there is pretty good, and these storages have come along at the right time for their business.”
The site bought last year is referred to as the silo site, and features three steel bins with a total storage capacity of 6600t.
The main site includes two large sheds, each with capacity for more than 20,000t, as well as three smaller sheds and three 25,000t bunkers.
“We bought the three Viterra silos last year, and we don’t have enough room there.”
Mr Earl said some shed space on the larger Viterra site could be used to house plant as well as store inputs and product as the business expands.
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