Fonterra celebrated the official opening of its new state-of-the-art cheese plant at Stanhope, Vic, on Friday marking the return of full production to the site two-and-a-half years after fire destroyed the previous plant.
Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford joined with Fonterra, its build partners, industry, local farmers and community members to officially open the new $140 million plant.
The 18-month project saw more than 7,500 tonnes of concrete poured, 80 containers of equipment shipped, and more than 330,000 man hours worked by more than 200 contractors to build the new cheese plant, which will be able to process up to 1.3 million litres of milk every day.
Ms Pulford said Fonterra’s Stanhope cheese plant had injected more than $30 million into the local economy and created about 30 new jobs.
“Fonterra will be making cheese here in Stanhope, in the heart of Victoria’s dairy country, and sending it around Australia and to the world,” Ms Pulford said.
“This investment secures the future of Fonterra’s Stanhope facility and ensures northern Victorian farmers have a home for their milk.
“It’s a vote of confidence in regional Victoria and in the Victorian dairy industry.”
Fonterra Co-operative chair John Wilson said the investment would support the co-operative to further capture the strong global demand for dairy.
“Australia is a global ingredients hub for Fonterra’s cheese, whey and nutritionals, complementing our consumer and foodservice businesses," he said.
“Stanhope will help us to meet the growing global demand for cheese that is being driven by a strengthening middle class in our key markets.
"China alone is already a $4.6 billion market for protein, and is growing at 4 per cent per annum.
“The future for Australian dairy is positive.
"The long-term fundamentals for dairy are strong and global prices are returning to more sustainable levels.
"Today’s opening is a clear sign of our co-operative’s belief in the local dairy industry and our commitment to Australian farmers.”
Fonterra Australia managing director René Dedoncker said the new plant returns mozzarella production to Australia for the first time since 2013, helping to capture growing demand for cheese both domestically and across Asia, particularly in China and Japan.
“Fonterra is the leader in Australia’s $2 billion consumer cheese category, the dairy market leader in foodservice, providing dairy solutions to chefs across Australia, and one of Australia’s top dairy ingredients exporters,” he said.
“The new Stanhope cheese plant is core to our strategy and helps us build on our market position, ensuring we have a sustainable business that delivers to everyone along the value chain.
“Fonterra cheese already tops more than half the pizzas made in China, and now we will be sending Australian-made mozzarella to cater for growing demand.
“Forty per cent of people in urban China eat at Western-style fast food outlets once a week, and the use of dairy in foodservice has grown by over 30 per cent in just five years.
“This growth has been helped by demand for cheese – as disposable incomes rise the dining-out culture is growing, particularly for pizza.
“In Japan, cheese consumption is rising by 3 per cent each year, with huge potential for growth.
“Japan is the world’s second-largest importer of cheese, with Australia their number one supplier – they’re our biggest market for cheese.
“Our Stanhope cheese plant helps us make the most of that enormous market potential in Australia and around the world.”