Saputo will not close any of its Australian sites despite a factory cull in its Canadian homeland, the boss of the processor says.
Montreal-based chairman Lino Saputo Jr visited Victoria last week as part of a whirlwind Australian trip, also revealing the dairy giant plans to tap into demand for plant-based drinks.
It comes as Saputo announced the closure of two Canadian factories in the coming 12 months, set to affect about 280 employees.
However, his assurances have not convinced agriculture leaders, who say he and other processors need to pay their suppliers a higher farmgate price for the sector and its factories to remain viable.
“No, you won’t see any more plant closures (in Australia),” Mr Saputo told ABC radio.
“Our plants are probably 300 to 400 million litres of milk away from getting it to capacity utilisation that I would like to have.
“So, we’re not announcing any plant closures. What we have done to be proactive, we announced in December, the seasonal closure of the Maffra facility, so the plant will be shut down for five months.”
Farmer Power chief executive Garry Kerr said Mr Saputo’s assurances were hollow given his intention to branch into plant-based “fake milk.”
“What an insult to our hardworking dairy farmers producing milk day in, day out,” Mr Kerr said. “He flies into Australia, says Australian factories are here to stay then contradicts himself by talking about getting into the fake milk industry.
“He’s a business and he’s entitled to do what he wants with it but he’s doing dairy farmers no favours at the farmgate, just like other processors including Fonterra. That’s what happens when our processors are based out of the country. There’s less concern for Australian farmers.”
Original article sourced from https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/