IT WAS interesting to note last week that dairy processor, Lion, had launched the southern hemisphere’s largest specialty cheese factory at Burnie in northern Tasmania.
But what’s Burnie got that we, here in the best milk producing area in the world, haven’t got?
The firm’s Burnie plant has been upgraded to process up to 110 million litres of milk a year into parmesan, brie and camembert.
Lion dairy and drinks managing director, Peter Kean, said robots would pack the cheese to send to Australian and burgeoning Asian markets.
“It’s probably the most stainless steel in one location, if you can imagine something being put into a box fully done by robots, put in a pallet by robots,” he said on ABC Radio last week.
Even so, the plant will still employ between 250 and 280 people.
But why can’t we manufacture cheese on that scale here?
The news is good on the development front from Burra Foods which is aiming to raise an additional $100 million for growth in production at its Korumburra plant.
Such an expansion is likely to add further jobs to the area which is why the expansion of childcare places in the town is so important. Augmentation of the local water supply should also be pushed ahead.
But why is it that we have never been able to attract a major cheese manufacturer to the area?
It has been talked about for years and at one time or another – South Gippsland Shire Council used to actively sell the idea to the sector. Who is doing that sort of economic development work now?
It’s almost certain that the Tasmanian state government would have offered lucrative incentives to Lion to expand, as the Victorian Government has done with both Burra Foods and Murray Goulburn in the past but surely there’s room for a high-value cheese processing plant here, just like the highly automated one at Burnie.
Cheese factory site manager at Burnie, Todd Clarke, said the $150 million upgrade had taken about five years to implement.
The maker of such products as Yoplait, Lion has the largest share of the specialty cheese market in Australia, which includes brands such as Tasmanian Heritage, South Cape and Mersey Valley.
Lion believes the sky’s the limit for quality dairy product sales into Asia.