Government criticised over handout to Singaporean almond giant

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 25th January 2012

The Victorian State Government has been heavily criticised for offering a grant to Singapore-based Olam International Limited for helping build its proposed “state-of-the-art” almond processing plant in Victoria.

The criticisms come at the same time as the Australian Government is being criticised for inadequate support for Australian-owned companies, when foreign investment in the country’s food industry is at a record high.

The Singapore based international Olam group bought 8,000 hectares of almond groves and 41,000 megalitres of water as part of the collapse of Australian-owned Timbercorp in 2009.

Olam’s new processing plant is being constructed at Carwarp, near Mildura in the north of the State. It is reported that the Victorian Government is offering funding to Olam to help with set-up costs through a Business Flood Recovery Fund. As such, it is an obtuse form of financing with less transparency from government.

The move has angered members of Ausbuy, an organisation promoting Australian-owned goods and services. Ausbuy’s chief executive Lynne Wilkinson told Australian Food News today, “It seems local companies don’t get funding but international companies do.

“We have tremendous agricultural assets in Australia. However, there could be a time in Australia when almonds are no longer available for other Australian processors and we will have to import from another country. It’s about who is controlling the supply chain,” Ms Wilkinson said.

‘State-of-the-art’ almond processing facility

A statement on the Olam’s website says, “We are establishing a state-of-the-art processing facility to provide production capacity for our orchards as they mature.

“The development of this facility will enable us to have direct control over every stage of the production process, ensuring full single-point control of almond quality, traceability and safety from orchard to customer.”

In 2009, Olam became Australia’s largest almond grower, acquiring and managing over orchards in the Sunraysia area in Victoria and southern Australia. Olam’s processed almonds are sold on both the domestic and international market. Olam’s Australian orchards predominantly grow Non Pareil, Carmel and Price almond varieties across 11 farms.