Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Nearly 400 jobs to go in milk factory shutdowns

Up to 360 jobs will be lost with dairy producer Murray Goulburn to close three of its facilities Hundreds of jobs go as Murray Goulburn closes 3 dairy processing centres
Kelvin Reese | 04 May, 2017, 01:28

Tasmanian dairy manufacturers are not looking to buy the Edith Creek plant after Murray Goulburn closes it in December.

The closure of the three facilities, one in Tasmania and two in Victoria, will result in the loss of about 360 jobs and are part of a sweeping review of the Murray Goulburn operations and asset base undertaken by new chief executive Ari Mervis.

In April 2016, Murray Goulburn cut the price it paid suppliers by 20 percent in a move that angered farmers, who said the cut came so late in the season that they had little chance but to continue producing at a loss.

The closures will cost about 360 jobs, saving the co-operative between $40 million and $50 million a year.

"It signals that Murray Goulburn is still very much in recovery and that process may take several years".

The ACCC alleges that from June 2015 until February 2016, Murray Goulburn misled farmers by representing that it had a reasonable basis for setting and maintaining an opening farmgate milk price (FMP) of $5.60 per kilogram of milk solids and a forecast final FMP of $6.05 per kg, and that it considered the forecast final FMP of $6.05 per kg was the most likely outcome, when that was not in fact the case.

He remained positive about the ACCC not pursuing a pecuniary penalty against Murray Goulburn given, as a co-operative, any penalty might directly affect farmers.

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"The farmers relied on Murray Goulburn's representations and were not expecting a substantial reduction in the farmgate milk price, particularly so close to the end of the season when it was not possible for them to practically readjust their expenditure".

Murray Goulburn also announced it would be ending its milk supply support package (MSSP).

It acknowledged the need to "mitigate the risk of further milk loss" by forgiving the MSSP.

Under the MSSP, Murray Goulburn made payments above the reduced farmgate milk price but required farmers to repay it from their future milk payments, causing some to switch to other processors.

Closure of the Edith Creek plant in North West Tasmania comes just five years after MG spent about $14m upgrading its bottling line at the site, which it bought in 2006. The closures will probably start this coming August and occur in a staged manner. These initiatives will ensure that MG has an improved processing footprint going forward.

"At MG we are acutely aware of the impact that our decisions will have on our various stakeholders, including the communities in which we operate, " he said.

We recognise this has been a challenging period for suppliers and appreciate their ongoing support.

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