Cheese factory turns to UHT milk
Waharoa-based artisan cheesemaker Kaimai has given up its long struggle to stay in business, calling in a liquidator and selling its assets to a company which plans to make long-life milk for export.
Executive chairman and cofounder Wyatt Creech said it had proved ‘‘impossible’’ to make the venture work because of high milk prices and tighter consumer spending.
But he denied the killing blow for the company, which had dozens of small shareholders, was the board’s decision to buy the Te Mata Cheese company in 2010.
Creech said all creditors had been paid, and shareholders were expected to get some level of return when the company was wound up.
Pureland Dairy, buyer of the cheese company’s Waharoa site and assets has kept the Kaimai Cheese cafe and delicatessen operating, and is applying for consents and permits to convert the plant to produce UHT milk for export.
It would be the Waikato’s fourth new dairy plant in short order.
Chinese dairy company Yashili is building an export plant at Pokeno, Fonterra has a UHT pro- duction plant going up in Waitoa, and the Miraka dairy company is building a UHT plant near Taupo.
Pureland Dairy has registered the company name Kaimai Cheese, and retained most of the staff at the retail outlet, along with the cheesemaker, said chief executive, shareholder and director Jiahui Miao.
The new venture is producing small quantities of cheese and butter, he said.
Miao said if the UHT plant plan gets the green light, he expected it to create jobs for up to 50 people.
He said the new company’s parent operated out of Singapore and Canada. The decision of Creech and his board of directors to wind up the five- year- old cheesemaker comes despite an 11th hour restructure, and Wallace Corporation chairman Sir James Wallace’s white knight entrance late last year with a $250,000 cash injection.
A spokesman for Sir James at the time said his investment was a personal one, after a long association with Kaimai director and shareholder John Luxton.
Creech and Luxton are former National Party Cabinet ministers.
The company at the time told shareholders Sir James would become a cornerstone shareholder and the new capital would address the company’s immediate cash shortfall as it worked through the restructure.
Just before directors had told a special shareholders meeting the company needed $450,000 in cash to address its debt problem and to provide adequate working capital.
It was expected that when the restructure was complete, the only debt would be bank debt of just over $2.5 million.
In December 2011 the company said it was putting the Waharoa site on the block in a bid to stave off receivership.