POTENTIAL Murray Goulburn plant closures across the state have caused Gippsland MPs Tim Bull, Danny O’Brien and Melina Bath to seek an urgent meeting with Murray Goulburn’s new chief executive Ari Mervis over the future of plants at Maffra and Leongatha.
The speculated closures, which have not been denied by Murray Goulburn, are based on a postulated dwindling milk supply thought to be threatening the future viability of the Australian-owned co-operative.
A Murray Goulburn spokesperson confirmed to the Gippsland Times the company was currently undergoing a review of its business operations as part of a cost reduction program.
“This is to balance our processing capacity in line with our future milk intake, ensuring optimum efficiency across our manufacturing facilities,” they said.
“We will announce the outcome of the review, once completed, as appropriate.”
The company’s half year results and milk intake information will be announced on February 24, shedding further light on the situation.
The news comes in the wake of the announcement that Murray Goulburn’s Maffra plant’s planned shut down would last for three months instead of one this year, to cope with an expected reduction in milk intake.
Late last year, a Murray Goulburn spokesperson confirmed the longer shutdown was a direct result of milk loss to competitors having an impact on farmgate milk prices, as farmers shifted their supply to rival processors following Murray Goulburn’s controversial price cuts last April.
The three Gippsland MPs have written to Mr Mervis, seeking assurances that neither plant will close or be downgraded.
Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull said Murray Goulburn has been through a difficult 12 months but it was important to maintain its employment footprint in Gippsland.
“We appreciate that Murray Goulburn has reportedly lost significant supplier volume over recent months and this will make management of the company’s assets more difficult,” Mr Bull said.
“Gippsland is in the grip of some significant economic challenges with the closure of Hazelwood Power Station and a threat hanging over the Australian Sustainable Hardwoods timber mill at Heyfield.
“We don’t need more bad economic news.”
Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said there was already concern in the South Gippsland and Wellington shires about empty shops and job prospects.