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Processing investment on track

THE next big growth area, and the next big challenge, for Western Australia’s olive industry will be the establishment of processing and bottling facilities.

A few years ago WA’s only dedicated olive press was operated by Carlo Ioppolo in Wanneroo.

The industry now boasts five olive processing plants, with facilities having been established at York (two), Margaret River and Dandaragan. And the number is set to grow further.

The challenge for the industry will be to ensure the coordinated expansion of processing lines.

The State’s largest processing facility was opened in July at Olea Australis’ Dandaragan Estate.

The company invested $1.5 million in the plant, which can process five tonnes of fruit an hour, or 10,000 tonnes a year.

The plant will provide sufficient capacity to process all fruit from Olea’s groves and surrounding groves for the next three years, after which the company plans to install a second line.

At least two more producers in the Moore River region are planning to install their own processing facilities.

Larenta Olives chief executive Trevor Coward said he was aiming to have a processing line in place for next season, with a capacity of 3.5t/hour.

This would be sufficient for two years and, like at Dandaragan, would be followed by expansion to handle increased harvests.

Mr Coward said olive oil processing plants were highly modular, which made it relatively easy to progressively expand capacity.

Fini Olives is also planning to establish its own processing facility but has not yet finalised plans.

The processing plants established by big growers provide a ready solution for the many smaller growers in the region.

Nevertheless, the Moore River Olive Association is continuing to investigate the establishment of a joint processing facility, possibly near Gingin.

In the south of the State, Olio Bello at Margaret River presently has the only processing facility with a capacity of about 1t/ hour.

It processes olives for other growers, though many in the region have improvised with wine presses.

Frankland River Olive Company managing director David Carr said installation of a new processing line would commence in December, at a cost of more than $1.5 million.

The machine would have a capacity of 3.2t/hour, which Mr Carr said would be sufficient for three seasons.

The plan was to expand capacity to 5t/ hour, which could process fruit from up to 1,000 hectares of olive groves.

Another group looking to establish a processing plant is the South West Olive Association, which received a $24,500 government grant to investigate the feasibility of a plant in the Warren Blackwood region.

The Peel Olive Association is also believed to be interested in establishing a processing facility.

Olea Australis is looking beyond processing lines, however.

Managing director Geoff Newing said his company was investigating further investment in centralised infrastructure for the industry, including bulk storage and packaging facilities.

“We need to look four to five years ahead,” Mr Newing said.

“It’s infrastructure that we will need for where we are going and the industry will also need it to support its growth.

“People have to decide where they will fit into the industry, as fully integrated producers or as producers of bulk oil or growers of olive fruit.”

Mr Newing said the company presently had an open mind as to the best location, and this could be dictated by sales trends.

For instance, if most WA olive oil was sold in Sydney and Melbourne or exported to the United States, it could make sense to build the facility on the east coast, he said.

But if the UK and Asia proved more successful as export markets, the infrastructure could be established around Perth.

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