New flax processor a boost for growers

The plant, which will be able to crush 25,000 tonnes a year, is expected to supply flax oil to customers in China

Flax growers will have a new outlet for marketing their crop this fall.

Ming Hai Inc. is building a $2.5 million flax crushing facility between Saskatoon and Dundurn, Sask., that is expected to be operational by September.

Once at full capacity the plant will crush 25,000 tonnes of locally sourced flax per year. It is expected to put an estimated $12 million in farmers’ pockets annually and generate $15 to $16 million in oil and meal revenue.

“We will crush the flaxseed here and we will export the oil out of it to China,” said Yousuf Mohammed, business development manager with Ming Hai.

The non-food grade oil will be used to make paint in China. The meal will be sold locally to the cattle, hog, poultry and pet food sectors.

Ming Hai is a Canadian controlled private corporation established in Saskatoon in 2007 to supply flax to its strategic partner in China, Tianjin Mhjiaye Co.

It sources the crop from Western Canada and the U.S. northwest.

The crush facility has already been constructed but work remains to be done on finishing the inside, installing the equipment and hooking up power and gas.

The plant will be a cold-pressed facility, in which no chemicals are involved in the extraction process.

Ming Hai is licensed by the Canadian Grain Commission and will be paying farmers upon delivery of the oilseed. Oil from the plant will be sold to Tianjin Mhjiaye and other customers in China.

Wayne Thompson, executive director of the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission, can think of only four other processing plants in Western Canada that are crushing flax into oil and meal.

“The fact that somebody else is coming into Western Canada to set up another flax value-added processing plant is really nice to see,” he said.

Canada’s flax crop has plunged from about two million acres in 2006 to one million acres last year. Thompson hopes value-added projects like the Ming Hai plant can help reverse that trend.

“It definitely gives farmers a reason to think about growing more flax because they know the market is local,” he said.

“My hopes and dreams (are) that this is the first of a few more investments in Western Canada.”

Thompson said Ming Hai has been around for a while and has developed a good reputation with farmers.

Mohammed said the company’s five existing staff will move into the new facility sometime this summer and they will be hiring one more person.

The plant is not situated on a rail line but the company is working with Canadian National Railway, which will drop off and pick up containers fitted with flax oil tanks that are filled with oil and shipped to China via Vancouver.

Ming Hai is also working with Flaman, which will design grain and meal storage bins for the plant.

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