New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra is circling disgruntled Murray-Goulburn suppliers in the North East.
Fonterra met with about 20 dairy farmers at Kergunyah on Wednesday in anticipation of increased demand for milk to supply its Stanhope factory, west of Shepparton.
Despite being a major player nationally and internationally Fonterra has virtually no footprint in the Murray-Goulburn heartland, with M-G holding about 90 per cent of dairy farm contracts in North East Victoria while Parmalat takes virtually all the remaining 10 per cent.
We’ve had interest from farmers in the area about partnering with us and we’re exploring these opportunitiesMatt Watt, Fonterra
“We’ve had interest from farmers in the area about partnering with us and we’re exploring these opportunities,” Fonterra Australia’s milk supply manager Matt Watt said.
Fonterra’s Stanhope site takes milk from about 260 farms in northern Victoria to produce specialty cheeses and cheddar, powders and ghee.
The site produces a range of specialty cheeses for the Australian market, including Perfect Italiano cheeses, parmesan, pecorino, romano, gouda and ricotta cheeses.
In addition to cheddar for domestic and export markets, Stanhope also produces ghee, anhydrous milk fat, whey powders and milk powders for world markets.
The company is in the middle of a multi-million upgrade of the cheese plant.
When the new plant comes online mid-2017, it is expected to produce 45,000 tonnes of cheese a year for the domestic and export markets.
“We’ve been transforming our business, and it’s in good shape,” Mr Watt said.
“We are currently building a $140 million cheese plant at Stanhope which will provide a variety of cheeses to our domestic and export customers.
“Our new plant, once commissioned mid-2017, will require 50 per cent more milk.”