Alliance Grain Traders Inc. hasn’t completely given up on plans to build a pasta plant near Regina.
The company announced in 2011 that it would build a $50 million complex that would include a pulse and durum milling plant and a pasta manufacturing facility to be located in the Global Transportation Hub just west of Regina.
The announcement, which was attended by prime minister Stephen Harper and agriculture minister Gerry Ritz, was made a couple of weeks before the federal government tabled a bill to end CWB’s marketing monopoly for wheat and non-feed barley in Western Canada.
“Without the elimination of the single desk, we would not build a pasta plant in Regina,” Alliance president Murad Al-Katib said during the 2011 news conference.
Seven months later, Alliance announced it was indefinitely postponing the project because of disappointing earnings performance.
CWB supporters said it was proof that the original announcement was little more than a photo opportunity to build support for eliminating the single desk.
Al-Katib was asked to provide an update on the project during a question and answer session following a presentation he made last week at Ag-West Bio Inc.’s annual meeting.
“We are very committed to our pasta business. I’ve always had the dream of building that pasta plant in Saskatchewan,” he said.
“For those of you who know me, when I have a vision to do something, usually I find a way to get it done. We’ll figure it out over time.”
Al-Katib said the company will resume its feasibility study on building a mill and pasta plant in the Regina area in 2014-15.
The successful conclusion of a Canada-European Union free trade agreement would provide a big impetus for proceeding with the pasta project because it would provide unimpeded access to a major market for the end product.
“That is a big deal in terms of the durum wheat milling industry and in terms of the overall value-added processing industry,” said Al-Katib.
“We view that as a very significant development, and we’re a strong advocate of the pro-trade agenda of this government at the national level.”
The proposed Regina facility wouldn’t be Alliance’s first foray into the pasta business. The company owns Arbel Group in Turkey, which mills durum into semolina that is used to manufacture pasta marketed under the Arbella brand around the world.
Al-Katib was also asked why the company invested $35 million in a pulse fractionation and packaged food plant in North Dakota rather than building it in Saskatchewan where the crops are produced.
He said the company was targeting the U.S. market with the novel pulse food ingredients made at the plant and wanted to eliminate all border and transportation issues.
“We’re attempting to get the U.S. food industry to change formulations and to adopt our ingredients. We didn’t want one more reason why they would think about it.”
As well, the plant is the anchor tenant in Minot’s agricultural industrial park, where the facility receives daily rail service from the BNSF Railway Company, he said.