LACTALIS AUSTRALIA has announced the closure of its Rockhampton factory from the end of February.
The company said it had recently completed an analysis of the Queensland manufacturing capabilities and has made changes to the Lactalis Rockhampton and Lactalis South Brisbane factories, due to a changing milk supply from the Queensland region.
“This decision was not taken lightly, however the factory has not been processing at full capacity for a number of years and is only in operation three to four days per week with redirected milk supplies from south eastern Queensland,” the company said in a statement.
“The welfare of the 47 Lactalis Australia employees at the Rockhampton factory is our top priority, and we will be working closely with everyone who is affected by the closure.”
The company said all forms of support would be available to its employees throughout this transition time, including looking for opportunities where it could redeploy staff to different Lactalis locations.
Lactalis Australia will also be scaling back the production of yoghurt at the South Brisbane factory this year.
The company said there was insufficient farm milk in Queensland to also support yoghurt manufacturing so the factory has relied on transporting milk from other states to meet demand.
Yogurt manufacture will transition to other Lactalis factories in Victoria and Tasmania which will reduce transportation requirements of milk between the states.
Queensland Dairy Organisation president and Lactalis supplier Brian Tessman said declining supply over the last decade meant that the closure of the Rockhampton plant was inevitable.
“While this certainly will be a devastating blow to those employed at the Rockhampton plant, the closure should not affect the dairy farmers currently supplying to Lactalis,” Mr Tessman said.
“Production into the Rockhampton factory has been sporadic for a while now. Milk produced in the Central Queensland region for Lactalis will simply be transported down and processed in either the Nambour or South Brisbane factories. Only farms around Biggenden and to the north have had their milk going regularly to Rocky.’”
Before deregulation in 2000 Queensland produced 848 million litres a year and had more than 1500 farms.
Queensland milk production has dropped by more than 15 per cent each year from 2018 to 2019 and expected to continue to decline due to ongoing drought and the number for farm closures.