"Robertstown Grain Silo's"

In May 2019, Viterra the owners of the Grain Silos in South Australia announced that they were closing 11 silos of which Robertstown was one of them.
A meeting was held at the Silos on Thursday, 30th May 2019 to voice their opposition of the closing of the silos.

Persons that attended the meeting at the Silos

Back Row: L - R: Peter Schiller, (Goyder Councillor) Phillip Ruediger, Andrew Ruediger

Centre Row: Naomi Mosey, Kym Schmidt, Bruce Schutz, Simon Niemz, Andrew Heidrich, Dale Button, Ron Milde

Front Row: Kneeling - Simon Schmidt, Paul Schutz, Aaron Niemz, Sheldon Keller, Adrian Schmidt, Gayle Schmidt, Jake Schmidt

Below is the report in the Barossa & Light Herald newspaper

Farmers cop it rough, Farmers face silo closure

Drought-affected farmers in Goyder's south have been dealt another blow with the closure of Robertstown's grain silos.

The landholders were last week notified of the shutdown via an email from grain handling business Viterra, who own and operate the site.

The silos are just one of 11 across South Australia that will permanently cease after not being in operation for over a year.

An additional six sites, operational during last year's harvest, are also set close.

Other sites in the Mid North region set to close included Brinkworth and Orroroo, with bunkers at Eudunda also set to close.

It followed a decision made earlier this year by Viterra to cart grain to and from the Eyre Peninsula by truck rather than train.

In a statement to the Barossa Herald, Viterra operations manager Michael Hill said the decision reflected a changing environment.

Mr Hill said the closed sites represented less than two per cent of total receivals over the past five years.

"To best meet the changing needs of growers, Viterra's investment is focused on its larger sites where it can provide the highest level of service to growers," he said.

"This includes the ability to handle all truck configurations, segregation options, elevation capacity, turnaround times, opening hours, infrastructure and staffing."

Mr Hill said Viterra would continue to invest in infrastructure and services "to provide most value to customers safely and sustainably."

However, the announcement was met with community backlash.

On Thursday, May 30, about 20 farmers from the area gathered at Robertstown silos site to voice their opposition to media.

Aaron Niemz spearheaded the afternoon meeting, alongside his brother Simon, who are both Robertstown farmers.

"It is very frustrating and disappointing because we have not been consulted; it has just been shut down immediately and we have not had the chance to voice our opinion," he said.

The closure of the grain storing facilities and the bunkers at Eudunda will have a widespread impact.

Farmers from Riverland towns. who use the site but with reduced capacity, will be forced to cart elsewhere.

A higher volume of trucks on the state's roads was also highlighted as problematic with farmers expressing concerns about an already "crumbling regional road network".

Simon Schmidt expressed his concerns about road safety with more trucks likely to frequent SA's already crumbling regional road network following the closures.

Mr Schmidt has land at World's End and in Robertstown and used both nearby sites when operational.

He said he would likely have to cart two loads a day to Roseworthy, over an hour away, with the Eudunda silos operating at reduced capacity.

"The big issue is we do not have an option to cart to because they are closing down the Eudunda bunkers," Mr Schmidt said.

"If we do not cart the grain in, we cannot take it to Eudunda because Eudunda are going to fill up because they do not have an outlet when they have a surplus of grain anymore.

"They are forcing us to drive to Roseworthy which is a long distance, plus operating our headers, running our farms. It does not matter who is carting, there is going to be more trucks on the road.

"Viterra have to be held accountable for this because what happens when someone is killed?"

The cost of freight would also have an impact, according to farmer Patrick Neal.

"It is just not cost effective for us to cart to Roseworthy just the way the freight rates work out," he said.

"By the time we get in our truck and take it to Roseworthy and then we pay freight to get it down to Roseworthy...it just works out as more overall."

Drought has had a firm grip on the agricultural land in the southern Goyder region for more than two years.

Statistics from the Bureau of Meteorology showed Eudunda had received 49.6 millimeters of rain last month.

Some of the farmers in attendance on Thursday described the decision as a "kick in the guts" after their struggles with drought.

There were also concerns for the long-term effects on the local economy of the towns with businesses missing out on potential customers.

Mr Hill said Viterra had communicated the changes to farmers ahead of this year's harvest to help plan their operations.

"Viterra plans to open 67 sites across South Australia for the 2019/20 harvest (compared to 73 in 2018/19) with no changes to the overall provision of storage capacity and segregations for the major crops grown in South Australia," he said.

"We have released our preliminary segregation plan for the 2019/20 harvest to assist growers with their harvest planning."

Viterra has operated in South Australia for 10 years after it acquired the bulk of the state's grain storage infrastructure in 2009.

The company was acquired by Glencore Agriculture in 2012.


Another meeting was held in the Southern Saints Clubrooms on Friday, 9th August 2019 where Viterra ignored the farmers voice in the closing of the silos

Persons at the meeting

Below is the report in the Barossa & Light Herald newspaper

Grain growers' pleas to Retain Robertstown silos and Eudunda Bunkers fall on deaf ears

Robertstown's silos will cease operations indefinitely from harvest 2019 despite more than 70 disgruntled grain growers meeting with Viterra officials on Friday seeking to retain the service. 

In May this year farmers in the region were notified by email of the silos' closure from the Australian grain handling network who own and operate the site.

The town's silos are among the list of 11 of Viterra's regional sites in the state to permanently stop, including Stockwell, after not being in operation for over a year. 

Referring to the closures as a business decision, an additional six sites operational during last year's harvest will stop with a further blow - bunker capacity also decreasing at Eudunda.

The meeting, led by Robertstown farmer Simon Neinz, enabled growers to voice their burdens to a small panel of Viterra staff invited to Eudunda Clubhouse.

Viterra's operation managers Michael Hill and Jack Tansley provided overviews of the network's outcome.

Mr Hill said that the decision had been made "looking to the future," with drivers bypassing smaller sites in favour of larger sites who take 90 per cent of total receivals.

"The decisions have not been easy ones but had to be made based on a range of factors and information that we had," he said.

Mr Tansely, operations manager for the central region, referred to a 50,000 tonne storage capacity being built at Roseworthy.

Plans are also in place to extend operating hours at Roseworthy for this year's harvest, up 17 hours a day.

Yet the panel was shot down with both laughter and angry comments made by growers when an unload time frame of "about half an hour" was provided.

However, Mr Hill backed company claims with figures and statistics, including $350 million injected into capital projects, including $136 million in this region alone in support.

But growers continued their fight saying bumper crop years would not enable Roseworthy let alone Eudunda and Saddleworth cope with the demand of extra freight and grain. 

Farmers from the Riverland, such as Waikerie, who rely on Robertstown facilities, especially during good seasons, will be forced to cart elsewhere. Mr Hill did make it clear by saying "no" to the Eudunda site closing.

While the farmers questioned the panel for close to two hours, Mr Hill maintained that Viterra's investment continues to remain focused on its larger sites where it can provide the highest level of service to growers.

Meanwhile, the 11 sites to sites that haven't opened for a year or more and will close are: Cungena, Waddikee, Kielpa, Wharminda, Orroroo, Redhill, Robertstown, Long Plains, Stockwell, Wunkar, Alawoona. 

The additional six sites that opened last year and will also cease are: Minnipa, Kyancutta, Brinkworth, Paskeville, Millicent, Walpeup (Vic). Growers using the Stockwell site will be encouraged to cart to Roseworthy with durum wheat segregations at Owen.

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Last modified: September 13, 2019

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