The Mirror News

Community benefit in Burra Foods expansion

EXCITING developments at Burra Foods will see the South Gippsland community benefiting in a number of ways.

The Korumburra-based company has committed an initial investment of $20 million to expand its capability to manufacture nutritional milk powders, including infant formula, with first production scheduled for early 2014.

Further investment in the Nutritional Milk Powder Division is likely from 2016.

Burra Foods will also invest $4.04 million in the latest water treatment technology to upgrade the water quality on-site to the pharmaceutical standards required to manufacture nutritional powder.

As a result of the expansion, Burra Foods will have work for an extra 50 people during construction.  A further 25 new permanent positions will be created at the Korumburra site, and there could well be new jobs on farms and in supply chain businesses.

Burra Foods CEO Grant Crothers took the opportunity of a visit last Thursday from the Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter Ryan, to announce further big news for the company – the launch of a community support program to be known as the Burra Foundation.

Burra Foods General Manager Commercial Dale O’Neill explained that the Burra Foundation has been established to provide financial support to local community events and programs.

“While Burra Foods and our farm milk supply partners are already key contributors to the local economy, the launch of the Burra Foundation is an opportunity for a wider range of our stakeholders to provide much needed support to a broader range of community groups and organizations,” he explained.

Funding for the Burra Foundation will be provided by both Burra Foods and its customers.

Farm milk supply partners of Burra Foods are invited to apply for sponsorship towards a community program of their endorsement with an emphasis on education, health and the environment.

“We are leveraging from the diverse network of shareholders, employees and customers of Burra Foods to provide funding to these local groups and deliver those funds via our farm milk supply partners,” Mr O’Neill said.

The first round of funding will be distributed to community groups in the final quarter of 2013.

Mr Ryan, who is proud to be the member for Gippsland South, visited the factory to share in the good news and announce a contribution of $1.5 million from the state government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund towards the water saving project and plant expansion.

“The project is a substantial investment in the region,” he said. “The investment will also boost Burra Foods’ export sales, secure the future of existing regional businesses and make the dairy sector more sustainable and resilient.”

He said the significance of the dairy industry to South Gippsland was unsurpassed and he was pleased that the government was contributing to it. He had, he added, enormous faith in the future of the sector and its ability to contribute not only to South Gippsland, but also to the entire state and to the nation at large.

Mr Crothers said, “An entry into a higher value category of milk powder underpins our strategy of continually improving the value of our product basket and returning greater value to our farm milk supply partners.”

He said that in the 22 years since he had revived a once-derelict factory, Burra Foods had developed into a successful ingredient business, which sent ingredients all over the world. Now, in order to secure the site for the next generation the plan was to feed babies safe food. “It’s a significant step for us, with a focus on water,” he said. “We’re investing in taking milk out of Victoria and feeding babies in China.”

He thanked Mr Ryan and said that the contribution from Regional Development Victoria was recognition from the government of the importance of the dairy industry in Gippsland.

“Current infrastructure in South Gippsland restricts our ability to operate at world’s best,” said Mr Crothers.

“The support received from the Victorian Government through the Regional Growth Fund allows us to achieve our potential while at the same time the community will benefit from superior services and further employment opportunities.”

The Infant Formula Water Initiatives Project involves fabricating and installing:

  • Water recycling infrastructure, including pipelines, new pre-treatment storage tanks and a microfiltration plant;
  • Water supply treatment infrastructure, including pipelines, a carbon filtration plant, new reverse osmosis equipment and a sterilisation plant; and
  • Wastewater treatment infrastructure, including new pipelines to separate waste streams, a new wastewater filtration plant and new reverse osmosis equipment.

It will allow Burra Foods to recapture condensate water which will enable the re-use of more than 165 million litres of water per year. Furthermore, it will reduce the volume of waste water currently being dispensed to South Gippsland Water’s sewage plant by up to 80 per cent.

“South Gippsland Water has done great work in enabling this to happen,” said Mr Ryan. “Recycling water and reducing wastewater results in significant benefits to the wider community,” he added.

Burra Foods has already started taking on additional staff, although the bulk of the extra workforce will be employed in January. There will be a worldwide search for people with the suitable specialist skills, such as chemists expert in testing product. The equipment is scheduled to arrive in November, be commissioned in March and ready to have the first new product available in April.

South Gippsland Shire mayor Kieran Kennedy described the expansion of Burra Foods as “fantastic” for the shire. He said the dairy industry contributed more than $700 million annually and was of massive economic importance to the region.

“This bodes well for a bright future for South Gippsland Shire,” he concluded.


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