One of the world’s biggest maltsters has started a $27 million upgrade of its WA malting facility as it looks to one day double production in Perth. United Malt Group’s Australian subsidiary Barrett Burston Malting plans to finish building a new kiln at its Perth Maltings site in Welshpool by October. The company buys about 60,000 tonnes of WA barley a year to produce 50,000 tonnes of malt fordomestic and export markets. The new, indirect heating source kiln has been pegged to improve the efficiency and safety of the plant. It will not increase the facility’s capacity at its 43,704sqm site. However, a United Malt spokeswoman flagged “further capital investment” could be used to increase the production capacity to 110,000 metric tonnes. She said the Perth facility was well suited to meet increasing demand “both domestically and in exports in Asia”. “United Malt benefits from having high-quality, low-operating cost processing assets that are strategically located in premium barley-growing regions,” she said. “This allows it to source high-quality barley and access a diverse range of customers including global brewers, craft brewers, distillers and food companies.” The project was approved by the Metro Inner-South Joint Development Assessment Panel on January 25. The Perth project started around the same time United Malt announced it would close its Grantham malt facility in England. With two kilns on site, the kilning is the final step in the malting process and takes 37 hours after a 19-hour steeping process and four days of germination. The current facility has two floors with seven cylindro-conical steeping vessels, four Saladin box germination vessels and a two-floor, circular kiln. The site itself also includes 12,000 tonnes of malt storage, two on-site weighbridges, two circular kilns, and car parking for visitors. United Malt held its first annual general meeting as its own entity on February 18 after demerging from GrainCorp and listing on the ASX in March last year. The company attributed the coronavirus pandemic to a dampened financial performance during the second half of the year. United Malt chair Graham Bradley told shareholders it was a “year of two halves”. “After a solid first half, both product volumes shipped and revenues were negatively impacted by the closure on premise dining in most of the group’s key markets in North America, the United Kingdom, Asia and Australia,” he said. “We are not out of the woods in relation to the economic impact of the pandemic and so we expect continued adverse impacts on our sales and revenues in FY21.” United Malt’s financial results for the year to September 2020 showed the group’s revenue reached $1.3 billion, down 2.1 per cent from 2019. Full underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the group was $156.1 million. United Malt is the fourth-biggest commercial maltster in the world, with 1.25 million tonnes of processing capacity across 13 plants in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.