Plans to open a $13.8 million pineapple processing plant on the Capricorn Coast were shelved after the company behind the project went into liquidation.
The 2,000 square meter facility in Yeppoon was jointly funded by the federal government, which contributed $5.8 million through the Regional Jobs and Investment Fund, and Hidden Valley Harvest Pty Ltd.
Designed to feature state-of-the-art food technology, construction of the plant was given the green light at a groundbreaking event in December 2019 and is expected to be operational by June 2020.
But Hidden Valley Harvest Pty Ltd recently went into liquidation, leaving the plant half-finished.
The company has since ceased involvement in the project, saying it is no longer viable, but the company’s shareholders say they still want to develop the facility to its full potential.
The cost explosion is “extremely disappointing”
One of the shareholders of Hidden Valley Harvest is Valley Harvest Group Limited. Director Derek Lightfoot said he is now seeking additional financial support for the project.
“Due to significant construction delays and the impact of COVID on construction cost and time, the construction cost is now several million dollars higher than the original contract,” he said.
“Despite signing a design and build contract to complete the building for an agreed price within six months, the builder was unable to meet these requirements.
“This was hugely disappointing, especially as the equipment costs, which were originally budgeted to be considerably higher than the construction cost, were managed within budget.”
Mr Lightfoot said the main building had been constructed but there was considerable expense to complete the exterior work.
“At this time, Valley Harvest Group Limited is working hard to complete a restructuring and raise the additional funds needed to complete construction of the facility,” he said.
The government’s $5.8 million fund spent on construction costs
The federal government granted the funds to Hidden Valley Harvest (Facility) Pty Ltd on the condition that the money be spent specifically on equipment and construction.
“Once funds were applied to the project, an audit was undertaken by an independent body to confirm that all money was spent in accordance with the grant agreement,” Mr Lightfoot said.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said she is aware of the spiraling costs and is now looking for ways the federal government can help move the project forward.
“This project is very important for the Capricorn Coast and the end game is to see the project operational,” she said.
In 2019, the Capricorn MP said the plant had the potential to open up new markets as it would meet “local and international consumer demands for high quality processed fruit products”.
Poorly thought out project
But Capricorn Coast pineapple growers have criticized the management of the processing plant.
Local growers say that had the factory been properly planned, the facility could have been a more sustainable way of managing their supply of fruit to alternative markets.
Bungundarra pineapple growers Barry Brooks and his two sons Jake and Ryan are one of the region’s largest pineapple growers, growing around three to five million pine trees a year.
Mr Brooks said the project had been ‘poorly thought out from the start’.
“The original plan for a processing plant seemed good for the area, but poor planning unfortunately caused its demise,” Mr Brooks said.
“If done correctly, it could have added value to the pineapple industry and other fruit industries in central Queensland.”
Mr Brooks also admitted that the local pineapple industry was shrinking and the supply base was not what it used to be, questioning the location of the facility.
“Pineapples are a declining industry in Australia and the fresh market is demanding more than is currently grown, and the costs are putting enormous pressure on them,” he said.
“All avenues to develop the industry have been explored and we are the only producer with additional land, but we have reached our limit. »
Queensland country life asked Tropical Pineapples for comment, but the company declined to answer our questions.
Very strong market for products
Mr Lightfoot said there was a very strong market for certain products.
“There is a very strong demand for products to be produced by this facility and this demand has only increased since people had the opportunity to try samples of products produced last year” , did he declare.
“The equipment and technology used is the best in the world and is designed to retail all the nutritional goodness and flavor of the fresh produce that comes into the facility.
“Being able to capture the freshness close to the farms and provide a new customer for producers who produce new high quality food products is the main objective of the company.”
In 2019, former Livingstone Shire Council mayor Bill Ludwig said the pineapple processing plant would put Yeppoon on the world stage.
The council said Queensland country lifethat they did not contribute any costs for the construction of the facility or the purchase of land.
“The council will not be involved in any type of organizational change undertaken by the Hidden Valley Harvest Group, this is a corporate matter,” the council spokesperson said.
“The Council has always and continues to fully support the development and operation of a high pressure processing plant in the region.
“Once operational, the plant is expected to employ over 25 full-time people and add significant value to the food manufacturing sector of the regional economy.
Read also :
Want daily news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up for the Queensland country life newsletter below.