A new grain port could be built between Tumby Bay and Port Neill for the 2020 harvest, as a Free Eyre proposal gains investor interest.
The company held meetings across the region last week to explain their proposal to grain farmers.
Free Eyre chairman John Crosby said the privately funded $130-million plan had attracted interest from potential financial backers, but the proposal needed support from grain growers before investment could be locked in.
The proposed port would be located between Tumby Bay and Port Neill, featuring a 600 metre long jetty.
Free Eyre chose the site because the water becomes deep quickly, and say the port will be able to accommodate Panamax mid-sized cargo ships.
Mr Crosby said advances in jetty building technology over the past few years have reduced the cost of such a project from $300-400 million to $130 million.
Using practices previously only used for the building of bridges, he said the jetty would only require 10 pylons to be dug into the ground, with cemented support structures along the seabed.
Free Eyre also chose the site because of its proximity to the most reliable grain growing area on the Eyre Peninsula.
Mr Crosby said that of the 2.5 million tonnes of grain produced annually on the peninsula, about half was grown closer to the potential site than any other port, and a further 500,000 tonnes were grown where this port would be as convenient as others.
“It means that many less trucks go through Port Lincoln,” Mr Crosby said.
He said the competition a new port would pose would have monetary benefits for grain farmers.
“If there is serious competition for handling grain, there is downward pressure on cost,” Mr Crosby said.
He said the project was likely to ensure that “$25 million remains in the pockets of grain growers on the Eyre Peninsula.”
However Mr Crosby acknowledged there was a way to go before establishing strong grower approval.
While he said support at the meetings had been “pretty good so far,” the company was aware those not in favour are unlikely to attend an information session of that kind.
Free Eyre will be reaching out to opposition to try and win majority support.
Mr Crosby said information suggested the port could be made available for the 2020 harvest.