New Olam almond factory to export to Asia, use green energy

Multi-billion dollar Singaporean food group Olam announced the opening of a new almond processing plant in north-west Victoria.

Olam’s Carwap factory (near Mildura) covers 12,000 square metres, cost $60 million to build, and is predicted to produce half of Australia’s almond output. It was opened by by Olam global CEO Sunny Verghese, Victoria’s deputy premier Peter Ryan, and Olam Australia executive director Bob Dall’Alba. The Victorian government invested $1.1 million in the plant.

The almond groves were formerly owned by Timbercorp, and were bought by Olam in 2009 for $350 million after Timbercorp went into receivership.

The new plant will cater to rapidly rising purchases from India and China for Australian almonds. The Asian Century’s increase in the region’s middle-class consumers is predicted to drive demand up sharply.

"World demand for almonds is growing at 8 per cent a year and almonds are selling for $70 a kilogram compared to $55 two years ago," Robert Gulack, Olam’s orchard manager, told The Australian.

"Australians and Americans currently eat 700g of almonds each year, but in China it's only 100g per person; with the growing middle class in India and China, and changing eating habits, just imagine the global market."

The ABC quotes Verghese, who built the company from scratch, as saying 80 per cent of production will be exported to Asia and the Middle East.

Elsewhere the company’s global CEO praised Australian agriculture and spruiked the factory’s sustainability credentials. He has announced plans to have it eventually run on its own waste.

“In around 55 per cent of agricultural nations, including many Western nations, agriculture is non-viable, because it could not survive without subsidies from government,” he told Sunraysia Daily.

The plant will eventually use waste as a fuel source and a compost.

"First is we want to build a coal generation facility that will use all the shells and hulls as a by-product here to generate energy," Verghese told the ABC.

"The second project we are planning is in the ash that is generated as another by-product in the process, which is high in potassium, we plan to use it as a part of making green compost."