VIDEO: The beat goes on at pulse cleaning facility

TEMPEST, Alta. — One of the last wooden crib elevators built in Alberta has new life as a pulse cleaning facility for Viterra.

The facility, which has been refurbished and expanded to handle pulse crops, began its new role in November 2015, but the official launch occurred June 27 at the Tempest rail siding about 30 kilometres east of Lethbridge.

Viterra president Kyle Jeworski said the plant will complement the company’s existing Alberta assets consisting of 17 elevators, six special processing plants and more than 300 employees.

“This complements, because we’ve got bean processing facilities in Taber and Bow Island, we’ve got a mustard processing facility in Warner, we’ve got high-throughput elevators in Grassy Lake and in Lethbridge, so it really complements what we’re doing here,” said Jeworski.

“This facility itself is built for expansion as well. We’re calling this phase one. With the response we’ve seen so far, we see opportunity to continue to expand, even at this site alone.”

The plant has a capacity of 11,000 tonnes when full and has a 25-car rail spot. Facility operations manager David Morris said it can clean 50 to 60 tonnes per hour.

The Tempest facility will clean, store and ship pulse crops, primarily concentrating on red lentils for export.

Quinton Stewart, Viterra’s merchandise manager of pulses, said southern Alberta growers might top 350,000 acres of lentils this year, a dramatic increase from even a few years ago.

A few months ago, traders were paying 40 to 42 cents per pound at peak, which encouraged farmers to plant more acres, said Stewart.

New crop lentils are at 30 cents per pound, which he said is still the best return compared to other crops.

Yields look promising across Western Canada at this stage, he said, and if they fulfill their promise, red lentil crops will replenish depleted stocks in overseas markets.

Lentils delivered to the Tempest plant will be exported primarily to India, Pakistan, Dubai and Sri Lanka, where they will be turned into splits, repackaged and sold domestically, Stewart said.

Viterra expects to draw product from across southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.

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