Bunge fills missing link

Brad Thompson BunburyThe West Australian
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The global head of agribusiness giant Bunge has not ruled out more major investment in the WA grains industry after the official opening of its $40 million Bunbury port terminal.

Soren Schroder said yesterday that the strategic importance of the Bunbury terminal should not be underestimated in Bunge's plans for Australia.

Bunge has a green light to export up to 500,000t of grain from Bunbury in 2014-15 and has revealed plans for 450,000t-a-year terminal in Geelong.

"Australia has been the missing link in many ways for Bunge," Mr Schroder said just hours after arriving in Bunbury from the 186-year-old company's US headquarters.

"We have a global network and ability to tap into supply whether it is from South America, North America, the Black Sea. And what was missing . . . was a presence here. Australia is very important to us, especially in wheat, and Bunbury is the first step to completing the global puzzle."

Bunge is confident the Bunbury terminal can eventually handle much more than 500,000t a year and the State Government signalled it would continue to help by improving road access.

Transport Minister Dean Nalder, who opened the terminal yesterday, said the Government was considering major roadworks around Arthur River to streamline truck movements.

Mr Nalder said the Government was considering realigning the road from Wagin to Arthur River and from Arthur River to Collie so they intersected Albany Highway at the same point.

A major roundabout would be built on Albany Highway at Arthur River to truck traffic flow to and from the Wheatbelt.

The State Government has spent about $73 million improving access to Bunbury from the Coalfields Highway.

In opening the Bunbury terminal, Bunge has broken CBH's monopoly on bulk grain export from WA and stolen the march on other multinationals sizing up port investments.

Mr Schroder said Australia's share of global wheat production was the reason for the unprecedented interest in investment from multinationals, including Japanese and Chinese.

"Australian wheat is 20 per cent of global trade and we want to be a global wheat supplier to ourselves and select customers," he said. "We cannot fulfil that function without being here."

Bunge is assessing greenfield investments and acquisitions as part of a plan to generate a third of earnings from downstream processing in food and ingredients.

It reported a profit of $US288 million ($322 million) for the June quarter after sales rose 8 per cent to $US16.8 billion.

Mr Schroder said Bunge was particularly interested in processing assets for oilseed and grain production in China and India.

Bunge has developed it own oilseed crushing plants in China and is moving into packaging and bottling.

Mr Schroder said he expected shipments of canola from Bunbury to China.

"The more presence we have in Asia the more important Australia is," he said. "We believe the vast majority of exports from this facility and Australia in general should stay within Asia in normal years."

Bunge has already made two shipments from Bunbury - 18,000t of wheat to a flour mill in the Philippines and 44,000t of barley to Kuwait - the first since CBH closed its Bunbury operations in the 1980s.

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