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TAS Country : March 17th 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011 Tasmanian Country 23 News Tassie $132m cheese coup CHANGES AFOOT: National Foods' Tasmanian cheese-making operations director Trevor Stones at the Kings Meadows plant, which is winding down operations. Picture: ROSS MARSDEN KAROLIN MacGREGOR TASMANIAN dairy farmers have wel- comed an announcement by National Foods that it will spend $132 million upgrading two major cheese-making factories in the state. The company announced this week it would spend $120 million on the Burnie plant and $12 million upgrading its King Island operation. The company's Kings Meadows fac- tory will be closed within the next three years and the 40 employees there will lose their jobs. The small specialty operation, Heidi Farm at Exton, and its three staff will be relocated to Burnie. This week's announcement comes after the company conducted an exten- sive review of its cheese-making oper- ations around the country. Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association dairy council chairman Andrew Lester said while it was unfortunate there would be some job losses, overall the announcement was positive for the Tasmanian industry. ''It does sound like pretty good news for producers,'' he said. ''The fact they're investing that sort of money should give farmers confidence that they're commit- ted to the industry here.'' Other changes announced by the company include the sale of its Murray Bridge and Jervois sites and the transitioning of 103 employees to an- other location. Over the next three years the company also plans to wind up and close its Simpson and Campbellfield sites in Victoria, where 133 people will lose their jobs. National Foods managing director Andrew Reeves said the review had been necessary after 10 years of brand and site acquisitions by the company and very few manufacturing changes. ''The review was driven by the need for National Foods to support its market-leading brands and develop long-term sustainable business models based on modern and market-leading manufacturing practices,'' he said. As part of the Burnie factory up- grade, cheese production capacity at the site will be increased from about 10,000 tonnes a year to 25,000 tonnes. This will require an extra 10,000 square metres of building expansion. ''Tasmania's reputation for clean, green and exceptional environmental standards is a good fit for the future direction of the National Foods strategy to create high-quality, sustainable, market-leading brands,'' Mr Reeves said. ''National Foods' restructure of its cheese business is the key to unlocking further profit and growth potential from the specialty cheese category, and our preferred investment in the Burnie site will bring a high level of automation to the plant and realise that potential.'' As part of the Burnie site expansion, a new research and development fa- cility will also be included. To enable the building expansion, the on-site retail shop will be closed. The company is in discussions with the Burnie City Council about relocat- ing the shop to the Makers Workshop, which is run by the council. With plans to increase capacity, there will also be the chance for farmers to supply extra milk to the company. Mr Lester said this was good news for farmers, but warned milk prices offered by the company must be sustainable. ''Everyone remembers what hap- pened last time and I think they are just about to start negotiating over prices again soon,'' he said. ''As long as they can negotiate a reasonable milk price with the com- pany, I think this is going to be good for the industry overall. It's unfortunate that some people have to lose their jobs, but with plant modernisation that just seems to be the way things go now.'' AWARDED: David Fulton with daughter Sarah and Elizabeth Clark at the Tasmanian Honour Roll for Women presentations. Picture: KAROLIN MacGREGOR Women's inspiring rural work recognised KAROLIN MacGREGOR THE achievement of some of the state's most inspirational women were celebrated last week when this year's inductees onto the Tasmanian Honour Roll For Women were announced. Established in 2005, there are 201 women already on the roll. This year another 24 women were added to the list as well as two organisations. The roll recognises women who have made a significant contribution through their work or community services. Included this year is long-time Country Women's Association member Elizabeth Clark. Mrs Clark was awarded for service to the community and said she was thrilled. ''I'm so happy to have been chosen for this because it is a real honour, especially when you look through the list of women that are already on there,'' she said. Mrs Clark joined the Cressy branch of the CWA in 1982. She was state vice-president for three years from 2003 and state president from 2006-2008. During this time she was an organising member of the Associated Country Women of the World conference in Finland in 2007. Mrs Clark said the CWA played an important role in rural Tasmania at a community and state level. ''We try to raise awareness about the issues that are affecting rural people and communities,'' she said. ''During the drought we did a lot of work helping people, and that's what the organisation is all about really.'' Some of Mrs Clark's CWA activities have included major fundraising efforts for a variety of causes, including support for lymphoedema sufferers. Mrs Clark contracted lymphoedema in the 1980s, which resulted in the amputation of her right hand. Also included on this year's honour role was Amabel Fulton, who passed away in 2009 after a long battle with breast cancer. Mrs Fulton was given the award for service to agriculture which was accepted by her husband David at last Friday's presentation luncheon in Launceston. Mr Fulton said it was pleasing to see Mrs Fulton's contribution to rural Tasmania recognised. ''I think she would have loved it,'' he said. ''I think it a good acknowledgment of what she was trying to achieve for women and for farming families.'' Mrs Fulton graduated from the University of Tasmania in 1987 with a degree in agriculture and was awarded first-class honours for her thesis on the genetics of footrot in sheep. Mrs Fulton went on to become a journalist with Tasmanian Country before going on to work with the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment. In 1999 the couple established their business, Rural Development Services. Mr Fulton said as well as her academic work, a large part of Mrs Fulton's focus was on promoting the important role that women play in farm businesses, which at times is often not recognised. ''This was something at Amabel was really passionate about because she knew that the woman's traditional role on the farm of looking after the house and the children was just not reality,'' he said. ''Women are often the ones that handle the financial side of the business. Amabel was so enthusiastic about promoting the importance of the role that women play, because she knew that women who were supported were able to do much more in their families and also in their community.'' The two organisations that were also included in this year's honour roll were the Australian Women's Land Army, Tasmanian division and the Hobart Women's Health Centre. Strength stuns experts WOOL REPORT Eric Hutchinson CONCERNS about Japan have im- pacted on most commodities in a negative way this week, but wool is largely the exception thus far. Perhaps helped by a softer Aust- ralian dollar, the strength -- par- ticularly on the medium and broader microns -- is surprising many experts. Supply of fine wool is basically over for the season and the orders are also no longer about and it appears, albeit on a very small selection, these types are easing from their highs. Medium and broader types are showing continued strength and are setting seasonal highs. This closing of the basis between medium and fine types is typically seen at the top of price cycles and may be an indication of the end of a really strong rally for wool over the past six months. We are strongly encouraging Tas- manian producers who have in the past been willing forward sellers to look at the prices on offer for spring 2011 and through 2012. All categories are now in the top 5-10 per cent of prices seen in the past 20 years. It is not a complicated process to lock in great prices and then be able to concentrate on what most wool producers are really good at, that is growing as much of the best wool possible.
March 10th 2011
March 24th 2011