Saputo closes dairy factory in Maffra, scales down others in Victoria and South Australia, with 75 jobs lost

Saputo is to close its dairy factory in Maffra and scale back operations at two more sites, affecting 75 employees.

Bulk powder production at its Leongatha site and cheese packaging at Mil-Lel, near Mount Gambier, will be shut down.

In February, the Canadian milk processor announced plans to cut 18 jobs at its Maffra and Cobram factories.

And, in August, it announced further plans to scale back its Australian operations in the face of declining milk supply.

Speaking to the ABC this morning, the company said 75 employees would be affected, and redeployment would be discussed and, where not available, severance would be provided.

Leanne Cutts, president and chief operating officer, said some functions of the three sites would be relocated.

“Many of those impacted production and packaging functions at those three will be integrated into facilities across the facilities network,” she said.

“It’s business as usual for our customers … no change to the products and brands.”

Ms Cutts said suppliers’ milk would continue to be collected and processed across the Saputo network.

“We’re committed to the Australian dairy industry and we want every liter of milk,” she said.

When asked whether Saputo might close more plants, Ms Cutts said “we’re always reviewing our network … because we want to make sure we continue to be efficient”.

The changes will take effect in the first three months of 2023.

Tim Bull, Member for Gippsland East, said the Maffra closure was not a surprise, but it was still a big blow for the town of 4,000 people.

“The Maffra community saw the writing on the wall when there was a significant downsizing in the past 12 months, but it’s always disappointing when you’re losing jobs out of a rural town,” he said.

“It comes at a time when there are plenty of sectors looking for workers, so there are plenty of job opportunities around, but we need to make sure these workers are transitioned appropriately.”

Mr Bull said he hoped Saputo would support the repurposing of the Maffra factory.

“It is a big site in the heart of Maffra, so hopefully we can get Saputo together with Wellington Shire Council and come up with a plan to use that site for the betterment of the community,” he said.

Saputo significantly expanded its presence in the Australian market when it purchased the former farmer-owned dairy cooperative Murray Goulburn in 2018.

At its peak in 2014–15, Murray Goulburn collected more than 3.6 billion liters of milk from Australian dairy farmers.

Since then, Saputo’s milk intake has fallen to less than 2 billion litres.


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