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Last rites for Murray Goulburn: Local dairies are looking to future

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April 10, 2018

MURRAY Goulburn shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of selling the co-operative to Canadian company Saputo last week.

MURRAY Goulburn shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of selling the co-operative to Canadian company Saputo last week.

It was labelled a ‘‘sad day’’ for some.

It ended the dream of an Australian owned, grower owned, co-operative. Possibly forever.

But if there was to be any silver lining for the region it will be found in the knowledge a strong company was taking the reins.

Ballendella farmer Adam Campbell said the deal was a disappointing but necessary step.

“It’s sad to see the co-op fold but we all have financial pressures and this is the best way forward for everyone,” he said.

“Saputo seem genuine and when you sit in on the meetings and hear how far in debt Murray Goulburn are, you realise this is the best way forward.

“Trying to battle on and watching the company disintegrate wouldn’t be a win for anyone.”

At an extraordinary general meeting in Melbourne 97.9 per cent of shareholders voted in favour of the $1.31 billion sale.

The co-operative made the decision to sell in October following the loss of hundreds of suppliers in the wake of the 2016 milk price crisis, with milk supply levels plummeting as the co-operative lost more than a billion litres of annual milk supply in just 12 months.

Saputo chief executive officer Lino Saputo Jr said the vote was a significant milestone in the company’s bid to acquire Murray Goulburn.

It was the end of an era for many, with Murray Goulburn supplier director Craig Dwyer encouraging suppliers to look to the future.

‘‘MG has meant many things to many people; suppliers and employees alike,’’ Mr Dwyer told the meeting.

‘‘To all those generations that helped build the MG we have all belonged to, I thank you . . . I would encourage you all to give Saputo a chance to prove themselves with your supply, and build on the foundations created by so many of you and your hard-working predecessors.’’

Lockington farmer Ron Read has been an MG supplier for 35 years and said it was heartbreaking to see the end of the co-op.

“It’s a tragedy but the best result given the circumstances,” he said.

“It will never be the same now the co-op is gone. Suppliers felt part of the operation with the co-op and that bred loyalty.’’

Established in Cobram in 1950 by seven dairy farmers, the co-operative grew to 2000 suppliers and shareholders, with factories across the country, including in Cobram and Rochester.

The sale, if approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, is expected to be completed by May 1.

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