SW cheese factory revival for Brownes as China gets taste of WA
Brownes, WA’s oldest dairy, is planning a $10 million revival of the mothballed Brunswick cheese factory, to eventually produce about 6000 tonnes of cheese, most of which will go to China.
A small amount of cheese, to be made at the South West facility, will be for WA’s supermarket shelves, under new plans by Brownes which was bought by Chinese dairy giant Shanghai Ground Food Tech in December.
Brownes Dairy managing director Tony Girgis said the Chinese Government gave regulatory approval last week for Brownes to export cheese, alongside its other approved products.
He said it would take between three and five years for the cheese factory to reach its full 6000t-a-year capacity, using about 60 million litres of milk or 15 per cent of the State’s annual current supply.
“We are getting the plant up to scratch,” he said. “It won’t be a case of flick the switch and go gangbusters.
“Rather we’ll ramp up to full capacity over three to five years, the first big shipments going to China this spring.”
The major spending required to get the cheese factory operational is installing a system to dry the whey.
Mr Girgis said Brownes was leaning towards a system that used whey to make a nutritious animal-grade feed.
Mr Girgis said the Chinese parent, a big producer of cheese in its own country, would value add to the cheese.
The factory cranked up to make 300t of cheese last year, which was necessary before it received its licences.
At full capacity, it will employ 20 full-time staff. But reviving the factory is not intended to be a solution to balancing the peaks and troughs of milk supply throughout the year for the industry.
“We will not look to outside supply unless we need to,” Mr Girgis said. “Rather, this manufacturing option allows our current suppliers to grow in a sustainable, well-managed way.
“To create a balancing option for the whole State requires all major processors coming to the party and probably a $20-$25 million investment.”
He said contrary to expectations, Shanghai Ground Food Tech had no major need to import WA-produced milk to China. The company has about 10,000 cows and about 50 per cent market share in Jilin province.
“For our new owner the game is not about buying milk, it’s about buying the brand,” Mr Girgis said.
At Balcatta, a further $4 million will be spent upgrading processing and packing facilities.
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