A senior executive with Bunge North America says the company is not considering modifying its canola processing facility at Altona, Man. to process soybeans.

While soybean acres on the eastern side of the prairies have climbed rapidly in recent years, with acres in Manitoba expected to exceed two million in 2017, processing capacity has remained small.

The costs associated with making a change to the canola crush facility in Altona are not public knowledge, but there’s been speculation Bunge might begin processing soybeans as production in the region has grown and intensified.

“Frankly, we haven’t even contemplated that. We built it for canola processing. It’s a key part of our chain and a vital plant for us,” said Tim Gallagher, executive vice-president for Bunge North America, on the sidelines of the Canola Council of Canada convention in Winnipeg.

“We have a big value chain, so having Altona there to feed the downstream food customer in the U.S. is important for us,” he noted.

Bunge more than doubled its canola crush capacity in Altona in 2014 when it opened a new plant and refinery capable of processing 2,500 metric tonnes per day.

“We’re very pleased with the performance of the plant and the future of the plant,” said Gallagher, who oversees Bunge’s entire oilseed value chain in North America.

Meanwhile, a group of business and community leaders from the Brandon area is working on attracting a soybean processor to the southwest part of the province. Plans for a US$240 million soybean crush plant at Spiritwood, North Dakota — 175 miles south of the Manitoba border — were also announced last month.


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