Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Future is secure: Murray Goulburn invests in Cobram

A total of $91 million investment at Cobram facility will see dairy farmers' produce turned into processed products ready for the world's supermarkets.

ROB HENSON May 21, 2014 3:21am

Milking the profits: Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy, Moira Shire Council Mayor Peter Mansfield, MG managing director Gary Helou and Cobram site manager Brendan Marwood.

Devondale Murray Goulburn’s $91million investment at Cobram will be an Australian first — using world-class technology to process and package dairy foods, primarily for growing Asian markets.

The co-operative’s executive team were in Cobram yesterday to officially announce the $74million cheese cut and wrap facility at Cobram, to be fully operational by December 2015.

Additionally, $17million will be spent on developing capacity for a wider range of nutritional products, such as infant formula, which is the highest value dairy product — at up to $20000/tonne.

Murray Goulburn managing director Gary Helou said the company was investing $127million — 70 per cent of which was to be spent at Cobram.

Of the cheese-wrap facility, Mr Helou said: ‘‘We (currently) sell cheddar in 25kg bulk form, mainly into Japan, but more and more into China.

‘‘So we take the bulk cheese that we make — cut it, wrap it, shred it, cure it and snap freeze it in the consumer format, which is where you get the value-add.’’

Mr Helou said the investment in cheese and nutritionals manufacturing would bring an estimated $700million a year in revenue to Murray Goulburn.

State Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy said it was a ‘‘pretty gutsy’’ long-term move by the company, amid the trading of water in the wider region in the past 10 to 15 years.

‘‘You’ve got to know ... when you’re adding to infrastructure, you’re doing it in the right place,’’ Mr McCurdy said.

‘‘So I’m very pleased that MG have taken the leadership they have and seen Cobram is the place to make that investment.’’

Federal Member for Murray Sharman Stone paid tribute to local dairy farmers that struggled through drought and floods.

‘‘The irrigation system failed in the drought in the first time in 100 years, then there were floods,’’ Dr Stone said.

She said her government was committed to getting rid of the carbon tax, which she said would cost MG $25million per year.

She also said she wanted a better free trade agreement with China for the dairy industry, with 25 per cent of Australia’s dairy produce coming out of the region.

‘‘It (the Japan FTA) should have been better, and we have to make sure our China FTA is as good as New Zealand’s.’’

Dr Stone also said the industry ‘‘needs smart people in the game, needs better prices’’ to keep future generations of Australians interested in dairy farming.

Mr Helou said the investment represented ‘‘an important step towards delivering on our commitment to significantly increase underlying farmgate returns for MG suppliers’’.

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