By GRANT MAYNARD

VICTORIAN export hay giant JC Tanloden is eyeing Ouyen as the potential site for a new, multi-million dollar receival and processing facility.

Working with a local consortium including the Ouyen Inc. group, the project could mean up to 50 new full time and seasonal jobs for the town, and be a huge boost to the Mallee economy.

JC Tanloden already has two Victorian hay receival and processing facilities. One is at Epsom, an expanding northern Bendigo suburb, and the other at Raywood, half an hour away again to the north-east.

Establishing a hay receival and processing plant at Ouyen would be a smart “geographical diversification” for JC Tanloden, its parent company’s director of corporate strategy and investment, Roger Prezens, told Mildura Weekly.

He explained that with the company’s two existing sites in central Victoria, it made sense to also have a plant that could service the north-west of the state, from the Mallee all the way over to the South Australian border.

JC Tanloden is the hay exporting arm of Wingara Ag, a publicly-listed company that has big plans for the future, including ramping up its burgeoning hay export business.

JC Tanloden is a leading supplier of fodder to meat and dairy farmers throughout Asia including Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China.

Wingara Ag’s revenue presently sits at under $40 million per annum, but it has plans to see that become $80 to $100 million within three years.

It’s is an ambitious goal, with the proposed Ouyen facility being potentially integral part to Wingara/JC Tanloden’s plans.

JC Tanloden’s interest was sparked when an Ouyen Inc. initiated the search for a hay exporter to establish a hay processing and shipping facility in the Mallee as part of the Intermodal transport hub project with direct links to the Port of Melbourne.

The proposed hub is integral to the JC Tanloden expansion plans into the Mallee.

Once built, the Intermodal hub will allow JC Tanloden to transport export hay directly to the Port of Melbourne with attractive time and cost savings.

“For us,” Mr Prezens said, “a facility at Ouyen would be a win-win.”

“It would be good for us, and it would be good for the town.”

Ouyen Inc. chairperson Scott Anderson agrees, as does prominent Ouyen hay producer Jarrod Munro and Ouyen Inc. secretary Tracey Lawson.

All three are excited about the JC Tanloden plan.

Mr Anderson has revealed that an agreement has been reached with landowners, securing a site for the Intermodal project, while planning for power supply, the rail sidings and access roads was well advanced.

The Ouyen Intermodal project will provide direct rail link to the Port of Melbourne for not only hay, but also table grapes, almonds, wine, grain, potatoes and citrus and bring back imported farm machinery, chemicals and fertilisers.

Mr Munro, whose farms with his father, brother and uncle, is already a JC Tanloden supplier, and has been for the past few years.

During the oaten hay season, his family sends five or six, heavily-laden semi-trailers to Tanloden’s Raywood plant daily.

“Having a similar facility in Ouyen would certainly cut our freight costs,” he said.

Ms Lawson said she could see nothing but positives for her beloved town. She described the jobs the project would create, and the prosperity it would bring, as welcome boosts for Ouyen.

Mr Prezens revealed that the required financial due diligence aspects of the Ouyen proposal are progressing well, and that there had been strong investor interest.

“Now all we have to do is get the government (state) to see the benefits and get behind the Ouyen Intermodal project,” Scott Anderson said.

Mr Prezens and Kane Dempster, who is JC Tanloden’s Hay Purchasing Manager, said JC Tanloden had established a good working relationship with proponents of the Intermodal project, hay producers in the wider Mallee and the Ouyen community.

The pair described the company’s relationship with farmers as “vital.”

“We need an ongoing partnership with farmers to ensure success,” Mr Prezens said.

“We would be looking at processing 50,000 to 75,000 tonnes of hay out of Ouyen annually to make the project viable.”

To do that, Mr Dempster said the company needed farmers to get behind the proposal to ensure a steady supply of hay annually.

And he is keen to work with both farmers and the wider Mallee community to that end.

To some extent those relationships are already being built, to the benefit of both JC Tanloden and farmers.

Jarrod Munro was full of praise for the company he has now been dealing with for several years, and excited about the potential of the business in the future.

“They have been great to deal with,” he said simply.

And, he added, it was nice that someone was chasing his family’s quality hay with Mr Dempster as a direct contact.

The hay income is a welcome boost to the Munro farm bottom line.

Australian oaten hay is highly regarded on the international market for its energy value and as a year-round reliable source of digestible and palatable fodder for dairy and beef cattle, and the Mallee produces some of the best in the country, renowned for its sweetness, soft texture, low levels of potassium and nitrate nitrogen and consistency.