The first 100 tonnes of chickpeas have christened a new $18.5 million bulk-grain handling facility at the CQ Inland Port at Yamala near Emerald, which is expected to save farmers thousands of dollars in freight costs.
The bulk grain handling facility is one of many businesses at northern Australia’s first inland intermodal port, which will facilitate rail to road freight transport and warehousing storage.
GrainCorp Queensland regional operations manager Brad Foster said growers would get better money for their grain at the site due to decreased supply chain costs.
“The reduction from this site here will be $5 to $10 a tonne and around an $8 [per tonne] reduction on average, so it’s good news for the growers and the whole supply chain,” Mr Foster said.
Wait times reduced
With growers harvesting hundreds of tonnes of grain each day, the savings could be in the thousands of dollars.
Mr Foster said the new site would also decrease wait times for export out of the Port of Gladstone.
“From the Yamala site we can get a 24-hour cycle for trains that means we get to Gladstone and back out here in a day so we can load a train a day,” Mr Foster said.
“Back at our old site in Emerald it was 36 hours so basically three and a half trains a week instead of seven.”
Wheat, chickpeas, sorghum, and barley will all be processed at the facility and transferred by train to Gladstone.
COVID-19 has delayed progress on the rest of the CQ Inland Port project, but Mr Foster expected the rail line to be functional by November.
Fresh start during tough times
Emerald farmer Hamish Millar runs Cowal Agriculture and was the first to transport grain to the facility, a journey of around 10 minutes.
“It’s certainly early days but we’d probably save around $2 to $3 a tonne on freight [at the CQ Inland Port site] and because it’s on our doorstep it makes economic sense to run it there,” Mr Millar said.
He said the location was not only convenient, but infrastructure costs could also be reduced.
“We are at a point where we grow a multitude of crops, and it’s a significant investment to put silos and infrastructure up,” he said.
“It saves us from having to invest in our own infrastructure and just tap in and utilise the GrainCorp system and the warehousing system.”
Winter season plagued by drought
GrainCorp estimated the new facility would process around 70 per cent less grain this year as a result of the drought.
“We are looking at about 30,000 tonnes. About 100,000 tonnes would be a good average for this area and it can go up from there with good rainfall, so a good season around here would be 120,000 to 150,000 tonnes,” Mr Foster said.
Mr Millar said this year he could only grow a third of his normal production because of the lack of water.
“The last good rain we got was January. We are irrigation production, so we had a little bit of leftover water to use but looking to the skies to get some timely rainfall soon,” he said.
Benefiting the whole region
Central Highlands Development Corporation’s Peter Dowling said the CQ Inland Port was a priority project for the region, which contributed more than $1 billion to the agriculture sector each year.
“We do an economic profile every year and one of the things that defines for us is that there’s a leakage of about $2 billion from our economy in the Central Highlands,” Mr Dowling said.
“The CQ Inland Port can play a significant role in retaining industry that provide goods and services to us externally [that now] can be located here.”
He said the region had great potential to expand, with a recent economic profile indicating the economy had increased from $3.9 billion to $6.3 billion.
The existing GrainCorp site at Emerald will be closed and replaced by the new facility, which will be the second largest GrainCorp handling centre in the region.
The entire CQ Inland Port is expected to be complete by June 2021.