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SA spud producer's $35 million investment


South Australian-based potato supplier The Pye Group will invest $35 million into a new potato packing facility at Parilla, about 220km east of Adelaide.

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The Pye Group said the multi-million-dollar investment would inject an estimated $42 million into the regional Mallee economy and create 40 new local jobs.

Company director Mark Pye said the new washing and packing facility would be double the current production capacity at its Virginia-based facility, which was about 50,000 tonnes of potatoes.

These are distributed across South Australia, the Northern Territory and Australia’s east coast.

“The new packing facility will feature the best available optical grading and automated packing technology to revolutionise the way in which we process potatoes,” Pye said.

“The new Parilla facility will ensure the best possible quality controls and minimise waste. It is 260 kilometres and three hours closer by road to our Eastern states customers and offers faster delivery.

“Additionally, there will be 70 less B-Double trucks travelling between the Mallee region and Virginia each week reducing greenhouse emissions.”

The Group has received $2 million funding for the new potato packing facility as part of a $12 million State Government initiative to grow regional economies.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said the Regional Growth Fund would “unlock nearly $70 million of investment in South Australia’s economy” and create more than 1000 jobs across the state.

“Our regions are a key driver for the South Australian economy and this will provide a much-needed shot in the arm to help business bounce back as quickly as possible,” Basham said.

The Pye Group owns Parilla Premium Potatoes and Zerella Fresh, which stock potatoes for major fast-food chains and supermarkets including Aldi, Woolworths and Coles, as well as independent grocers.

The company said it grew about 17 per cent of the nation’s washed potatoes and 37 per cent of the State’s washed potatoes, a total equivalent of 120,000 tonnes of spuds each year.

It also supplies 40,000 tonnes of carrots and 50,000 tonnes of onions each year and generates more than $100 million.

The Virginia plant is expected to stop washing and packing potatoes when the Parilla facility is complete in mid-2021.

Pye Group media manager Renee Pye said the company would offer jobs in Parilla and redundancies to those working at its Virginia-based facility.

“We will minimise any need for redundancies and will for some time be working through the level and nature of roles that we will offer at both Parilla and continuing at Virginia,” she said.

“Anyone made redundant will receive plenty of notice, all their entitlements and any other assistance that we can offer.”

She did not say how many people worked at the Virginia facility.

Renee said the plant would continue to wash and pack carrots at the facility, with a mind to increasing its export capabilities and adding a food hub to open in 2022.

“We see a lot of opportunity in the future for carrots. We want to expand that plant to make more room for the export opportunity that is coming up in the future,” she said.

“We’re also looking at doing a food hub there with different growers from the region.”

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