A WA dairy industry advocate has welcomed the return of some of the country’s best-known milk brands to Aussie hands, after the recent acquisition of Lion Dairy & Drinks, which contracts about 20 WA dairy farmers, by Bega Cheese Limited. The New South Wales processor announced the $534 million purchase last week, taking the reins of major dairy brands including Pura, Masters, Dare and Big M from Japanese brewer Kirin. It comes after a $600 million deal to sell the company — which has the biggest national cold-chain distribution network supplying food service and convenience stores, and a national manufacturing footprint of 13 sites — to China Mengniu Dairy Company fell through in September. The acquisition will increase Bega’s annual milk intake to 1.7 billion litres — from 955m litres — and expand its manufacturing and milk collection footprint as well as its product range. About 20 WA dairy farmers are contracted to supply milk to Lion. It is then processed at its Bentley factory, which has been upgraded over the past three years. WAFarmers dairy section president Ian Noakes said the return to local ownership was pleasing. “I think it should be positive,” Mr Noakes, pictured, said. “It has top-quality management.” “It will be interesting to see how it operates in a fresh-milk market as it’s been more focused on manufacturing previously. “I’m happy for it to be locally owned and happy for it to be Bega.” From a WA perspective, Mr Noakes said it would be “great” if the deal resulted in more demand for fresh milk. Other products taken on by Bega in the sale include yoghurt (Yoplait, Farmers Union, Dairy Farmers), cream and custard (Pura, Dairy Farmers) and chilled juices (Juice Brothers, Daily Juice). Bega Cheese’s executive chairman, Barry Irvin said he was “delighted” to announce the acquisition, which is anticipated to be completed by the end of January. “The acquisition delivers important industry consolidation and value creation with synergies across the entire supply chain,” he said.