GLOBAL dairy giant Saputo outlined its bold vision to increase production at the seven remaining Murray Goulburn factories and earn the trust of disillusioned suppliers at a meeting in Leongatha last Thursday night.
Saputo is in the process of acquiring Murray Goulburn’s assets, including the Leongatha factory which chief executive Lino Saputo Junior visited earlier that day.
The buyout will mean the end of the organisation as a co-operative, but suppliers say it’s better than the alternative.
Mr Saputo Junior has met with suppliers and MG staff across the state.
He told the Sentinel-Times that the Leongatha factory has a major role in the future as he hoped to increase overall annual milk intake from 1.9 billion litres to 2.5 billion litres.
He said he wants all seven Murray Goulburn processing facilities operating at 90 to 95 per cent capacity.
But Mr Saputo Junior admitted there was work to do to bring suppliers back, or attract new farmers.
“It starts with trust, and I’ve spoken frankly at supplier meetings about Saputo’s character and culture and how we make and deliver on commitments.
“Our values are as good, or better, than a co-operative and the indication I’ve been given is that our principles are resonating with suppliers.”
He said a new management team would be given the best resources possible to make the best decisions on behalf of suppliers.
Mr Saputo Junior said he’s been encouraged by the response he’s received.
“The vibe has been outstanding. I do appreciate the very difficult time the suppliers have been through, so I’ve had to contain my excitement, but I’m pleased so many see the potential of Saputo.”
Leongatha South supplier Paul Zuidema said he was confident the new arrangement would stop farmers moving away from Murray Goulburn.
“It will stop the bleeding and maybe some will want to come back in 12 to 18 months’ time when their contracts run out.
“Am I positive about the future? Ask me in four or five years’ time, but this is the best solution to the problems we have right now,” he said.
“People are glad this is coming to a conclusion. I don’t think we’re exceptionally happy (about the demise of the co-operative), but the alternative was for Murray Goulburn to go broke.
“We were told (by Saputo) we’d have nothing to fear, it would be business as normal and that we’d be offered very competitive prices going forward.”
Mr Zuidema said he had no reason to doubt Saputo’s pledges.
“If you look on the internet, there’s not a bad word said about them. They appear to be a growing and successful company.
“They value loyalty and if they want to win back trust, they’ve made a good start.”