Community frustrated by Viterra closure

Farmers expressed their frustration at Viterra’s Robertstown site last week. Back: Naomi Mosey, Kim Schmidt, Bruce Schutz, Peter Schiller, Simon Niemz, Herbie Ruediger, Andrew Heidrich, Andrew Ruediger, Dale Button and Ron Milde. Front: Simon Schmidt, Paul Schutz, Aaron Niemz, Sheldon Keller, Adrian Schmidt, Gayle Schmidt and Jake Schmidt.

The closure of Robertstown’s Viterra site has left farmers in the region frustrated and disappointed.

Farmers from Robertstown, Point Pass, Neales Flat, Brady Creek and surrounds were told of the news last Wednesday and expressed their disappointment at the lack of consultation.

Emu Downs farmer, Mr Aaron Niemz was told the site closure was due to receivals being down and the site being in need of repair and maintenance.

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“You do realise we’ve been in a drought? Of course receivals are down. We only got 20 percent of the grain last year that we usually would but we’ve been through droughts and always come back,” said Aaron.

“This year we may not have the grain because we’ve only had 50 millimetres of rain where we are and we’re already half way through the year.

Emu Downs farmer, Mr Aaron Niemz.

“This closure affects 30-40 farmers in the area at least – even from Waikerie and the Riverland.”

Aaron explained that whilst there may not be the grain there was previously, he still thinks there’s enough to warrant the Robertstown site if everyone still supports it.

The closure of the Robertstown and also the Eudunda bunker’s site, means the region’s farmers have to cart their grain to Roseworthy’s Viterra.

That’s an average 180 kilometre round trip to Roseworthy, potentially twice a day. It also involves many more trucks trying to get into the site at once.

Mr Simon Schmidt from World’s End said this will ‘cripple’ them, and his main worry is the extra trucks and traffic added to the roads.

“Between Robertstown and Eudunda especially scares me. I’m worried about public safety and how we are supposed to keep up with harvest,” said Simon.

“I honestly think we need to stop selling grain to Glencore because if they won’t look after us, we won’t look after them.”

Aaron agreed with Simon, adding that it’s not just an added cost they don’t need to cart the grain afield, it’s also about the timing and logistics.

Most local farmers cart themselves, and locally have been able to get away with doing so. Some may need to source bigger trucks.

“Not just the freight costs which will affect us but not being able to get our grain into the system on time also means we are unable to capitalise on grain prices, especially if they are high at harvest,” said Aaron.

“It’s frustrating, disappointing and just a recipe for disaster. This was built years ago for the growers, by the growers.”

Viterra Operations Manager, Mr Michael Hill said Viterra is making changes to its site footprint which reflect the changing delivery patterns of growers and the changing environment and are aimed at providing customers with the most sustainable and efficient supply chain.

He said there are 11 sites, including the Robertstown site, that haven’t opened for a year or more that will not open in the 2019/20 harvest and will not play a future role in the Viterra network. There are an additional six sites that opened last year that will also not open in the 2019/20 harvest and beyond.

Based on a five year average, these sites represent less than 2% of total receivals.