Camperdown is set to reclaim its status as a major player on the dairy industry’s global stage with the recent sale of the town’s former Bonlac factory.
Mining services contractor MCG Group and agricultural investment management company EAT Group purchased the factory for an undisclosed amount from the De Cicco family, which has owned the site since 2006.
The joint venture will trade as Camperdown Dairy International and export tinned infant formula to Asia and bulk whole-milk powder to the international market.
The deal will see an initial investment of $120 million to build a new drying tower at the Manifold Street site.
Camperdown Dairy International chief executive officer Phil McFarlane said the factory will initially process 100 million litres of milk annually and plans to process up to 300 million litres in the next three to four years.
Starting with possibly 30 to 50 employees, the venture could eventually employ up to 100 people.
“We are already working with the Corangamite Shire to gain the necessary planning permits and approvals needed to get the project moving ahead,” Mr McFarlane said.
“It’s important for people to see us moving forward to add credibility and traction to the project.”
The venture is touted as Australia’s first fully vertically integrated dairy export business, meaning the company will be in control of everything from the farms right through to the customers.
“We’ll be using milk from our own farms to begin with, but there will be opportunities for other local farmers to become suppliers as the project moves forward,” Mr McFarlane said.
“We’re in the process of buying farms and have already secured a number located right across the region, from Colac through to the south east of South Australia,” he said.
“We’re looking for farms that fit a particular criteria, ones we can invest in and expand to lift production.
“We will have a high level of quality control on the farms to achieve specific levels of fats and proteins.
“Our genetics, feed regimes and other practices will all be targeted at achieving that level of quality.”
The farms already purchased are under management with the milk currently being picked up by the region’s existing dairy processors.
“We spent a lot of time working out what the demand for dairy products was internationally, especially Asia,” Mr McFarlane said.
“Then we looked at what we as a business understood to be in demand most and worked toward meeting that demand.
“The demand for dairy products offshore is moving all the time – there is great potential.”
Mr McFarlane said Camperdown is an ideal location for the venture.
“Camperdown has a long heritage of dairy production, has long-term stability and the necessary expertise,” he said.
“There is a lot of skill and knowledge in the area that we can draw from.
“Camperdown’s depth of history with the dairy industry, the quality of the product and its traceability are all things our customers have warmed to.”