BID TO KEEP EDITH CREEK GOING
A GLIMMER of hope flickers to keep the Edith Creek milkprocessing plant near Smithton operating.
Plant owner Murray Goulburn has entered into an agreement to sell its business to Canadian giant Saputo that would mean closing Edith Creek, but another suitor is hoping to buy it as an ongoing concern.
Melbourne-based TasAsia Dairy, run by agricultural entrepreneur Stephen Blair, is lining up as a potential suitor for the UHT milk plant.
Thailand’s Dutch Hill Dairy Group, which specialises in producing and selling UHT dairy foods in Thailand, is shaping up as TasAsia’s main competition for the plant.
“We have offered a cash deal, but cannot comment because we are bound by a confidentially agreement,” Mr Blair said.
The plant currently makes eight lines of UHT milk, processed milkshakes and custards.
TasAsia is proposing to run organic and regular milk products and lift the number of product lines run to 10.
All workers at the Edith Creek plant are set to be made redundant on November 30 when MG closes the factory.
Last week the National Union of Workers wrote to MG and Saputo, calling for a renewed commitment not to mothball the Edith Creek factory if the site is not included in a sale to Saputo.
An MG spokesman said the co-operative retained the right to sell the site after the Saputo deal.
The NUW also wrote to Saputo to organise a meeting with chief executive Lino Saputo Jnr and the union’s national secretary Tim Kennedy.
The union was negotiating for Edith Creek employees who stay to their nominated termination date to receive a $4000 retention payment.
Yesterday MG said it had in-principle agreement with the NUW on the payment, to be approved by the employees.
Presently there about 78 workers left at the plant, but TasAsia hopes to rebuild that number to about 120 in the future.
MG has entered into an agreement with Saputo Dairy Australia for the sale of the company for $1.3 billion. The agreement did not include Edith Creek.
However, another five Chinese bidders are still lining up to buy MG.
MG used to receive about 20 per cent of Tasmania’s milk but it lost suppliers last year because of low farmgate prices and a retrospective clawback.
Industry sources estimated the value of the Edith Creek plant between $10 million and $20 million.