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Viterra’s New Tempest Pulse Facility Connects Farmers to Markets (PCN Fall 2016) SEP 19 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Viterra celebrated the grand opening of its Tempest, AB pulse cleaning facility during a crop season that experienced record lentil production in the province.

“This is another very important outlet for pulse growers in Alberta,” said Kyle Jeworski, Viterra’s President and CEO of North America. “We’re focused exclusively on lentil processing and cleaning. We continue to see increased acres of lentils being grown in Alberta, and to date there’s limited processing capacity for those lentils in Alberta. This allows some value-added and increased marketing opportunities for growers in those areas.”

Viterra had planned to open a lentil processing facility such as this for about five years, Jeworski explained. The Tempest location was selected because it had been made redundant by the company’s acquisition of Lethbridge Inland Terminals in 2014, and also possessed base storage infrastructure and rail capacity.

Viterra added a new building capable of cleaning, storing and shipping pulse crops, as well as the cleaning and conveyor equipment to handle pulses and prepare them for export.

The company loaded its first cars at the new Tempest facility with a shipment of red lentils in November 2015, and growers have been steadily hauling their lentils there ever since.

“We have been at capacity almost every day that it’s been open,” Jeworski noted. “There was a bit of an expected lull between old crop and new crop, but otherwise we anticipate that we will maximize throughput of red lentils through the facility this year.”

Lentil production in Alberta was pegged by Statistics Canada to increase by 213.6 per cent to 432,700 tonnes, a record level for the province. The July 2016 StatsCan report, called Production of Principal Field Crops, also stated that farmers in Alberta anticipated a 127.6 per cent increase in harvest area to 560,000 acres. Average yields were expected to rise 37.8 per cent from 2015 to 1,704 pounds per acre, but below the five-year average of 1,808 pounds per acre.

Jeworski spoke to many producers and other guests at the Tempest facility grand opening event on June 27.

“I talked to as many growers as possible at the grand opening, and there’s lots of excitement in the area,” he said. “We’ve got first class staff there, and that’s key in any asset that we have. I’ve been very impressed since Day 1 and continue to be impressed by what we’re doing in the area.”

Leanne Fischbuch, Alberta Pulse Growers Executive Director, was among the dignitaries, customers, employees, government officials and media who attended the grand opening.

“In a year where our industry is seeing record acres of pulse crops, and for Alberta a significant increase in lentil production, we are pleased to see the investment from an industry leader in our province,” she said. “Alberta Pulse Growers Zone 1 and Zone 2 areas in southern Alberta have been consistently producing 90 per cent of the red lentils in the province and they now have another dealer option for selling their product. With the specialized handling equipment, it will keep the product in the top condition as it gets transported to port, bringing the best quality Alberta product to market.”

Jeworski said that the new Tempest pulse facility was designed to allow for future expansion as necessary, so Viterra will continue to evaluate the situation and expand when warranted.

The Tempest pulse facility is just one of a series of new and improved amenities that will benefit Alberta growers.

“We have a long and proud history of investing in Alberta, including several high profile projects in the last few years in places such as Grimshaw, Grassy Lake and Lethbridge,” Jeworski said. “We have a dedicated team of people across the province who work closely with our farmers to connect them to markets around the world.”

Another benefit to Alberta pulse producers will come from Viterra’s $100-million project to modernize its Pacific Terminal at Port Metro Vancouver, including the installation of a new ship loader system to increase shipping capacity and allow for the loading of “post Panamax” vessels, which are the largest vessels capable of navigating through the recently expanded Panama Canal.

“We’ve really strengthened our inland origination capabilities in Alberta recently, and that is only effective if you’ve got an outlet to move that because Canada is extremely reliant on exports,” Jeworski said. “Being so reliant on exports, it’s important that your inland capabilities are matched to your export capabilities. What’s really unique about Pacific is that the majority of its focus is on pulse crops. We designed this facility and upgraded it in a manner that allows for the efficient handling of delicate products, such as many of the pulses. We feel we play a very important role in pulse exports. We believe we are the leading pulse exporter out of Canada. We believe we are the leading global pulse trader. For us to do that effectively, we have to have assets that effectively do that and Pacific is a key piece of that.”

The first vessel to be loaded with the new ship loader at the upgraded Pacific Terminal was expected to arrive on Sept. 1, and a grand opening event will likely take place in late October.

Jeworski said that details on other projects that will benefit Alberta pulse growers will be available in the near future.

“We are also looking at some other pulse opportunities in Alberta to continue to deliver more marketing opportunities to farmers,” he said.

Further to his company’s improvements to help pulse producers, Jeworski said that he is also encouraged by the positive attention that the United Nations-designated International Year of Pulses has brought for beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas in 2016.

“I think it’s an important year that really brings to the forefront the nutritional benefits of pulses, and the importance that pulses play to many geographies as a key nutritional source,” he said. “It’s important for us because we play, what I believe is, a very key role of taking pulses from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. There are a lot of geographies that rely on Canada as a key source of their nutrition. I think recognizing that and ensuring that the public understands the importance of that is key. A side benefit is that people in North America realize that they should be incorporating pulses in their diets, which provides all the more benefit for industry.”

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