Production of infant formula for the Chinese market should begin at the ViPlus dairy factory at Toora at the end of this month or early October. That is the word from Leon Chen, a director of the factory who is also a joint investor in the enterprise.
The factory will initially be dry blending and canning infant formula, with plans to eventually make its own powder, though Mr Chen said that developments would proceed one step at a time. He said that the cans are waiting at the port of Melbourne and the powder to be blended arrived some time ago and is currently in storage.
He acknowledged that the project had been significantly delayed – several anticipated production starting dates have come and gone – but said he was hopeful production would start soon.
The project has certainly had teething problems, with worker dissatisfaction with payment arrangements being a core issue. In recent weeks a number of workers readying the factory for production walked off the job, claiming they had not been paid or had been underpaid. However, when The Mirror called in on Thursday, Mr Chen said there were still four or five people working at the factory.
The secretary of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, John Parker, met with Mr Chen last week on behalf of the disgruntled workers. Mr Parker later told The Mirror that he had found Mr Chen very approachable and had been impressed with what he saw when he was shown around the plant. Mr Parker did his best to impress upon Mr Chen the need to sort out the issues of payment as quickly as possible. There will be a further meeting this week.