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Group seeking soybean processor

This group is getting Manitoba ready to attract a soybean processing plant to the province

It’s been an active year for a leadership group in Manitoba that is trying to attract a soybean processing facility.

Westman Opportunities Leadership Group (WOLG) is a strategic leadership and advisory group comprised of Manitoba farm, business and civic leaders. The group is not working to build a soybean processing facility, but is trying to attract a private sector company to build a soybean-processing facility in Manitoba.

One component of WOLG’s work plan is to assess Manitoba’s potential for a world scale crushing facility. They’re also supporting efforts to attract investment, liaising with government and corporate officials and using their influence to open doors.

So far they’ve earned the support of five communities: Brandon, Virden, Neepawa, Carberry and Russell-Binscarth. Manitoba Pork has provided some seed funding for an initial financial feasibility assessment of the project. Manitoba’s producer association, Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and Soy Canada have also provided letter of supports.

“We have had cheerleaders and leaders within communities who understand that they are taking part in something that’s going to be an opportunity, if not for their community, for Manitoba,” says Ray Redfern, WOLG chair. “There is a need for greater development in rural Manitoba and we are in the process of assessing what some of the actual spinoffs of a facility could be that are the real wins for the broader community. We know there is potential for the hog industry to be enhanced, which is probably one of the bigger wins in terms of community activity.”

Why Manitoba?

Soybean acres in Western Canada have grown to almost three million acres in 2017, and Manitoba is leading the charge, with soybean acres up 40 per cent over 2016 to 2.3 million acres. Acres in Saskatchewan increased by more than 250 per cent this year to 850,000 acres.

Besides growing soybean acreage, Manitoba also has other advantages.

Soybean meal is a key hog feed ingredient, and Manitoba already has an established hog industry, with two pork processors, HyLife in Neepawa and Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon. Most of the soybean meal for Manitoba’s hog industry currently comes from U.S suppliers. A local soybean processing facility would reduce production and transportation costs and could help expand hog production.

Manitoba also has a good rail and road network. A processing facility in southern Manitoba would be close enough to the U.S. to make output available to U.S. processors.

WOLG hopes to show that Manitoba is open for business and supportive of the industry no matter where it’s located.

“We know it is beyond our ability to control where a proponent builder would locate,” says Redfern. “They will have their own agenda, so we want to make sure we have overwhelming evidence that identifies for them that Manitoba is the ideal place to locate. All the groups that have joined us are on board with the concept that if this facility comes to anywhere in Manitoba we’re all winners.”

WOLG estimates that building a facility with a production capacity of 850,000 to 900,000 tonnes per year would cost around $330 million. It would create 40 to 80 direct jobs, and besides producing animal feed, bring other value-added opportunities such as biodiesel and specialty soybean oil production.

Currently WOLG is talking to producer groups, and other communities to gather more support, as well as lobbying for provincial and federal government support.

Their next step is to engage more communities and complete a business case that evaluates competitors and identifies potential investors.

With increasing soybean acres there is room for a processing facility in Western Canada, but most likely only one, so WOLG is working hard to make sure it’s in Manitoba.

“We want to convince someone that, outside of whatever they may find for incentives raised by other jurisdictions, the opportunity to own a significant leadership place in a whole new marketplace, is worth them claiming Manitoba before someone else does,” says Redfern.

About the author

Contributor

Angela Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Manitoba. Visit her website at http://alovell.ca or follow her on Twitter @angelalovell10.

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