The Port of Brownsville will soon be back in the grain business as the result of a deal with West Plains LLC, which is leasing the port’s towering grain elevator and has already made substantial improvements and repairs to the long-idled, 50-year-old facility.
West Plains is owned by Houston-based BioUrja, a Houston-based energy and grains commodities trading company. The deal was facilitated by OmniTRAX Inc., part of The Broe Group, which manages the port’s Brownsville & Rio Grande short-line railroad.
A grand reopening ceremony and Brownsville Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting took place Thursday near the elevator, attended by dozens of port officials and staff, as well as representatives from the various companies involved.
Eduardo Campirano, port director and CEO, said the grain elevator is an iconic feature that had fallen into decline and disrepair, and that seeing it fixed up and back in operation is exciting. The improvements West Plains has made to the elevator and surrounding infrastructure since the deal was signed in May are “like night and day,” Campirano said.
He said he remembers the days when the elevator was active and sorghum trucks “lined up for miles” during harvest season.
“We look forward to getting back into the grain business, moving commodities both by truck and by rail, but just as important also moving it by vessel,” Campirano said.
BioUrja CEO Amit Bhandari said the company has 26 grain elevators in multiple states through its ownership of West Plains, though Brownsville’s will be the first with the capacity to load and unload ships. That capability, along with the proximity to Mexico, is “key to the international business,” he said.
“We’ll start small, but we are really, really bullish,” Bhandari said. “If you look overall, there’s 100,000 people coming every day in the world. They all need food, and the U.S. is one of the surplus producers.”
By STEVE CLARK Staff Writer