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Dairy giant Murray Goulburn closes Edith Creek Factory in Tasmania
May 3, 2017

Tasmania’s north-west community is reeling from a decision by dairy giant Murray Goulburn to close its Edith Creek factory, with the loss of 120 jobs.

The decision has left the north-west rural industry, community and Government in shock.

Workers at the plant, as well as those at Rochester and Kiewa in northern Victoria, were told of the decision on Tuesday morning.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association’s dairy council chairman Andrew Lester said the closure was not flagged when he met company representatives recently.

“They never confirmed or denied that any plant was going to be shut,” he said.

“I’m not sure why they’ve chosen [the Edith Creek] plant for closure. It’s a bit of a shock that they’d picked that plant.”

Edith Creek farmer Neil Innes-Smith said he understood the company had to “do something” but he was disappointed the local factory was targeted.

“It [Murray Goulburn] hasn’t done them [cut jobs] lightly but I’m very disappointed when it’s on our back doorstep and all the wage cheques it’s going to take out of Smithton area, a small community.

Mr Innes-Smith said despite the company ditching the so-called milk price clawback program, he remained on a financial knife edge after enduring a year of drought followed by farm gate milk price cuts.

He said the continuing low milk price meant the decision to freeze dividends and forgive repayments for its Milk Supplier Support Package would not make much of a difference.

General store owner Marcelle Brooks said the loss of 120 jobs was going to be “huge”.

“It’s not only going to affect myself and them, but it’s the little people in town as well,” she said.

“The community will struggle because one thing with this community is that when they have got money they will buy locally.

“The impact of McCains veggie site closing down was big enough, but this is massive.”

National Union of Workers secretary Tim Kennedy said it was devastating for the local community and called it a “disproportionate response.”

“The management at Murray Goulburn have created a situation now where a lot of farmers have exited the industry,” he said.

“It’s not just the direct jobs that’ll go from Murray Goulburn, but it’s all the downstream employment and all the downstream social infrastructure that’s undermined by this.”

“[The workers] have done the right thing over many years and, for no fault of their own, seem to be paying a big cost.”

Tasmania’s Primary Industry Minister Jeremy Rockliff lashed out at the company, describing the decision as a “kick in the guts” to Tasmanians.

“This is a company that has not covered itself in any glory over the course of the last 12 months,” he told Parliament.

“With the massive cut in dairy prices to farmers and their appalling corporate … management [it] has really impacted on the ground on farmers and … I am disgusted about it.”

“I’ve spoken personally to the CEO of Murray Goulburn Ari Mervis to express my disappointment.”

Circular Head’s Acting Mayor Jan Bishop said the decision had come as an “absolute shock”.

“It’s something we hadn’t had any indication of,” she said.

“I was of the opinion that our Murray Goulburn plant out there, under its review, is one of the profitable plants.”

Cr Bishop said she was hopeful the plant would not be mothballed and that it would be taken over by another company.

“Maybe there’s some other company that might be interested in having a look at the plant — you can only hope,” she said.

“The plant itself had a government grant about three years ago to upgrade the processing line, so that was a few million dollars … so I’d say it’s a pretty well maintained plant.”

Federal Member for Braddon Justine Keay described the announcement as a “blow” for Circular Head.

“In many cases the partners of local farmers worked at the Edith Creek plant which means household incomes in Circular Head will be placed under even more pressure,” she said.

“This is the last thing the region needs following the effect of last year’s price clawback by Murray Goulburn and the resulting dairy crisis.”

No impact on Tasmanian supply
The Edith Creek processing facility is Tasmania’s second biggest and has been operating for more than 20 years.

It is the state’s only processing facility for ultra-high temperature, or long-life milk.

Dairy Tasmania executive officer Mark Smith expected milk previously supplied to Edith Creek would now be processed at Murray Goulburn’s Smithton facility, which produces powdered milk.

“[So] milk production in Tasmania we don’t think will be impacted by this,” he said.

“We expect they will run that [Smithton] facility harder and more of the milk will be processed there.”

 

Source: ABC



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