Man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor booms

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE - By Alana Chris­tensen

A new re­port has re­vealed that 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 that 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 in north­ern Vic­to­ria now 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.

‘‘We are con­stantly be­ing told that man­u­fac­tur­ing in Aus­tralia is on its knees, but food and gro­cery man­u­fac­tur­ing in north­ern Vic­to­ria con­tin­ues to in­vest, in­no­vate and grow strongly,’’ Ms Bar­den said.

Ms Bar­den said Aus­tralians needed to be proud of their food man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor as a driver of jobs growth and a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the re­gional econ­omy, par­tic­u­larly with parts of the state bat­tling drought con­di­tions.

Food and gro­cery man­u­fac­tur­ing is the num­ber one ex­port in­dus­try in the re­gion, with $2.1 bil­lion in an­nual ex­ports.

Big­ger ca­pac­ity . . . Due to be com­pleted in Fe­bru­ary, the ex­pan­sion will see ca­pac­ity of the site dou­ble to 80 000 met­ric tonnes of cheese.

Works un­der way . . . The fac­tory’s cur­rent $125 mil­lion up­grade will see a new line put in to al­low moz­zarella and ched­dar to be pro­duced si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Pos­i­tive ef­fect . . . Site man­ager Ja­son Wright says the ex­pan­sion will help to boost em­ploy­ment and lo­cal pro­duc­tion.

Guided tour . . . Site man­ager Ja­son Wright (far right) shows Fed­eral Mem­ber for Mur­ray Damian Drum and Aus­tralian Food and Gro­cery Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Tanya Bar­den around Fon­terra’s Stanhope cheese plant.

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