Elevator under repair

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; The Bunge Corp.&8217;s Vidalia grain elevator, out of commission since it was hit by a barge Jan. 28, will be operational again by the time the wheat harvest comes in, Delta District Manager Doug McNeely said.

&8220;We are right now in the midst of starting the reconstruction process,&8221; he said.

The elevator, one of 21 in the company&8217;s Delta District, loads locally produced grain onto barges for transport to domestic and international destinations.

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The blow it took from the runaway barge &8212; which broke loose from its convoy after a collision with the Mississippi River Bridge nearly six weeks ago &8212; crippled the conveyor mechanism.

McNeely said the company has been and will continue to use trucks to transport grain to its St. Joseph elevator.

The added expense is significant, he said, but who will pay it is still under discussion.

&8220;It&8217;s certainly an unexpected cost,&8221; he said. &8220;We&8217;re still in the midst of dealing with the claims.&8221;

Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company of Arkansas owns the barge that did the damage. Insurance companies for both companies are working out the legalities.

&8220;It&8217;s not as simple as a car wreck,&8221; he said.

McNeely expects to have the elevator back up and running in time for June, when the first of the wheat is harvested. From there, the soybean, grain sorghum (milo) and corn harvests will not be affected by the elevator&8217;s temporary closure.

&8220;I don&8217;t anticipate any affects on the local farmers,&8221; he said.

Bunge Corp. is a global agribusiness company. It employs 25,000 people in 32 countries. According to its Web site, its 500 facilities produced 109 metric tons of corn meal, bottled vegetable oil, animal feed and fertilizer in 2004.