Boost for Strathmerton

By Geoff Adams

A strategic move by dairy processor Bega Cheese could lift employment opportunities at its Strathmerton factory.

Bega has decided to shift some of its processed cheese manufacturing from its home town of Bega in NSW, to the northern Victorian plant.

Executive chairman Barry Irvin said the move could create employment opportunities at the Strathmerton plant, as production was ramped up and shifts increased.

The company, which generates annual sales of more than $1 billion, said the move would result in redundancies of about 70 people at the factories in Bega.

Mr Irvin said the Strathmerton factory, originally purchased from Kraft, was a more efficient plant specifically designed for processed cheese production.

“It's a very big capacity plant and it can cope with bigger volumes and it can be very efficient.”

He said the move emerged from a review of Bega's efficiency and volumes in cheese production and was in context of a trend in market demand away from processed cheese and towards natural cheese.

He hoped the job losses at Bega could be filled by voluntary redundancies, which would be sought across all the sites at Bega, which employ about 600 people, between now and December.

Staff would then be retrained to match the available positions.

Mr Irvin acknowledged it was a difficult decision given Bega Cheese's historic association with the town, but one which reflected operational needs.

“It's still very much our home. But we needed to make this decision earlier rather than later.

“It's difficult because you are affecting people's lives.”

Mr Irvin said the Strathmerton factory was strategically located, close to milk supply and with connectivity to larger urban centres for distribution.

Milk supply had stabilised this year, after the company experienced strong competition last year.

Bega closed its Coburg mozzarella and cheddar factory last year.