A group in southwestern Manitoba is looking into what it would take to attract a soybean crushing facility to the area.

Ray Redfern is the chairperson of Westman Opportunities Group, which is comprised of volunteers from regional business, farm and civic leaders.

Last week the group held a series of meetings in Brandon to discuss the opportunity.

There were a number of municipalities and economic development offices represented, which Redfern says is a good thing.

"The mood certainly was that together, we'll be more successful and Westman will achieve more outcomes," he explained. "We think that this is only a springboard to other activities."

Redfern notes the goal would be to produce soymeal that could be used in local hog rations. He adds most of Manitoba's soybeans are currently shipped into the US to be processed.

He notes any potential developers would need to have expertise and deep pockets.

"Capital of constructing such a plant, and we don't know what size it would be, but preliminary numbers seem to show that a small one would be $60 million and it could be $200 million. It's not small dollars. But more importantly the number of tonnes of throughput that they have to put through at narrow margins means that in many cases it can reach a billion dollars a year worth of product going through that plant."

A potential site for a new facility has not yet been decided.

Funding for the preliminary work, which is scheduled to be completed by January 31st, 2017, was provided by the Brandon Economic Development Corporation.

In its November production estimate, Statistics Canada pegged harvested soybean acres at 1.6 million acres in Manitoba, which is a 14 per cent increase from 2015.

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