THE loss of 301 jobs from dairy giant Murray Goulburn’s (MG) sites is a bitter pill for regional Victoria to stomach, says United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) President, Kerry Callow.
“But it’s a loss that’s been forced upon the company to ensure its survival,” Ms Callow said.
“The high Australian dollar, carbon tax, supermarket discounting wars and draining of the Murray Darling Basin have all contributed to this moment.
“This is a tragedy for many country towns who are already struggling with the uncertainty of other food processing plants’ retrenchments and closures.
“But Murray Goulburn has been forced to find $100 million in savings to remain globally competitive.
“The UDV holds MG to its promise to keep all its sites open and commitment to take all suppliers’ milk. Ultimately this must mean a stronger and more viable MG, given the cost to regional communities.
“The carbon tax will have a huge impact on the dairy sector, given the vast amounts of energy processors used to manufacture milk powders, cheese and butter. Ultimately all these costs get passed onto the dairy farmers who own the MG Co-operative.”
The Victorian Farmers Federation estimates the carbon tax will not only drive down processors viability but cream $8,000 a year off the average dairy farmer’s profits.
“This is yet another blow to Victoria’s food manufacturing sector, which is struggling in the face of cheap imports and competition from supermarkets’ house-branding strategy.”
Heinz, SPC Ardmona, National Foods and McCain Foods have all been forced to close processing plants across south-east Australia.
But Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) President, Peter Tuohey said State and Federal Governments were standing idly by.
“Governments have told us we will be the food bowl of Asia, but their decisions are hindering the growth and viability of food processing and manufacturing industries.
“We need government to have a real look at their policies and reassess to make sure they provide real support for processing and agriculture,” Mr Tuohey said.