Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Fires, factories and fruit

Last week started with bad news in the shape of the 9000hectare Wunghnu fire and ended with three major projects getting the nod.

GEOFF ADAMS February 17, 2014 9:00am

Bruce Dighton and Terry Barnstable at GrainCorp's Numurkah oilseed factory meeting deputy Premier, Peter Ryan

Last week started with bad news in the shape of the 9000ha Wunghnu fire and ended with three major projects getting the nod.

Farmers between Tallygaroopna, Bunbartha and Wunghnu are still reeling after grass fires swept through their paddocks, destroying four homes and thousands of hectares of fencing, sheds, fodder, grain and grass.

On Thursday, the Victorian Government made good on its promise of help for SPC Ardmona in the form of a $22million co-investment to be matched by $88million from the owners, Coca Cola-Amatil.

Despite the lack of any money from the Federal Government, and criticism of SPC Ardmona’s enterprise bargaining agreement, CCA has signed up to a three-year innovation program, with a promise to maintain effective full-time staffing at 500, and to pay back the $22million if it closes the factory within five years.

Staff voted to freeze their pay and conditions for up to 18 months last week.

Under the restructuring Kyabram and Mooroopna factories will close, although SPC Ardmona couldn’t say when.

Product lines are expected to be transferred to Shepparton.

Meanwhile, a joint venture involving a Kyabram company, has opened a $40million UHT dairy factory in Shepparton.

Up to 50 jobs are expected to be created at the Old Dookie Rd factory.

And in Numurkah, GrainCorp, has decided to spend $35 million on the upgrade of the former Riverland oilseeds factory, to enable it to produce food grade oil for bulk shipping.

Although the upgrade will not require any more canola, the company said it was its long-term wish to grow the business based in a major canola growing area.

Further stories on the fire are on pages 3, 8, 9 and 10; on SPC Ardmona on pages 6 and 7; on the GrainCorp investment on page 2; and the UHT factory on page 3.

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