Boom time for most but not farm­ers

The Riverine Herald - - NEWS -

A NEW re­port has re­vealed the north­ern Vic­to­ria’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor is boom­ing, but con­cerns have been raised that farm­ers are not reap­ing the re­wards.

Re­search re­leased by the Aus­tralian Food and Gro­cery Coun­cil in Stan­hope on Thurs­day has re­vealed the re­gion has be­come a food and gro­cery man­u­fac­tur­ing powerhouse, gen­er­at­ing $12 bil­lion in out­puts each year and em­ploy­ing 21,500 Vic­to­ri­ans.

With al­most one in 10 work­ers em­ployed in the sec­tor, it is the largest in­dus­try across the four fed­eral Vic­to­rian elec­torates of Mur­ray, Indi, Bendigo and the Mallee.

While Aus­tralian Food and Gro­cery Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Tanya Bar­den cham­pi­oned the news as a won­der­ful re­sult for the re­gion, Fed­eral Mem­ber for Mur­ray Damian Drum re­minded ev­ery­one of the try­ing times cur­rently be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by our pro­duc­ers.

‘‘It’s a bit of a para­dox re­ally. What we have is a dairy in­dus­try where ef­fec­tively the av­er­age dairy farmer is do­ing it rel­a­tively tough and strug­gling to have a pos­i­tive out­look for the fu­ture,’’ Mr Drum said.

He said while man­u­fac­tur­ers had seen con­fi­dence and pos­i­tiv­ity in the in­dus­try and were con­tin­u­ing to in­vest, more needed to be done to im­prove sen­ti­ment at the farm gate.

‘‘We have to fix up this unique sit­u­a­tion where there’s poor con­fi­dence at the lower level, the farmer level, where they are work­ing their back­sides off . . . to pro­duce milk for the na­tion and in­ter­na­tion­ally yet strug­gling to make that suc­cess­ful, strug­gling to make that eco­nom­i­cally vi­able,’’ he said.

Fon­terra’s Stan­hope cheese plant is cur­rently un­der­go­ing its sec­ond ex­pan­sion in two years, in­creas­ing the de­mand for milk.

The $125 mil­lion ex­pan­sion of the Mid­land Hwy fa­cil­ity is set to see its ca­pac­ity al­most dou­ble, with more than 80,000 tonnes of cheese to be pro­duced by the plant each year.

With north­ern Vic­to­ria’s cur­rent pop­u­la­tion ex­pected to grow by 11 per cent dur­ing the next 15 years, Ms Bar­den said the pre­dicted in­flux of a fur­ther 64,000 res­i­dents in­di­cated fu­ture eco­nomic prospects would re­main strong.

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