Cargill to boost U.S. soy crush capacity, plant efficiency as food, biofuel demand rises

March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. agricultural commodities trader Cargill Inc is expanding soybean processing capacity at two large Midwest crush plants and increasing efficiency at five other U.S. facilities to meet growing demand for food and fuel, the company said on Thursday.

Cargill’s $475 million investment in seven states comes as U.S. processors are already crushing soybeans at a record pace amid soaring demand for livestock feed.

Soybean prices have scaled to the highest in more than six years as the record crush, and record exports, are projected to shrink U.S. stocks of the oilseed to a mere 9-1/2 day supply ahead of the next harvest.

Cargill anticipates rising demand for food as restaurants and the travel sector emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and for feedstocks to produce biofuels, including renewable diesel, grows, said Warren Feather, managing director of Cargill’s North American supply chain.

“We are seeing a continued growth trend for soy products, not just today but also these investments are part of how we are planning for the future demand,” he said in an email to Reuters.

Cargill will boost processing capacity at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, plant by 10%, with work due to be completed by this autumn.

Upgrades at Cargill’s Sydney, Ohio, facility, originally announced in 2019, will include a doubling of crush capacity and faster loading and unloading of products. The project’s $225 million price tag, which was also announced in 2019, is included in the $475 million investment, Cargill said.

Other improvements include automation that will speed up handling of soy products at Cargill crush plants in Guntersville, Alabama; Gainesville, Georgia; Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Cargill declined to disclose further details about its crush capacity as it is considered proprietary information.

The projects will be completed over the next five years.

Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Cynthia Osterman