For the second time in two years construction is under way at Fonterra’s Stanhope cheese plant as work continues on a $125 million expansion of the Midland Hwy site.
Coming off the back of a $140 million expansion completed in August 2017, the new infrastructure will see the site’s capacity almost double, with more than 80000 metric tonnes of cheese to be produced by the plant each year.
The investment will see an additional 36 people employed at the plant and the installation of a new processing line, enabling cheddar and mozzarella to be produced in tandem.
With work due to be completed in February, Fonterra Stanhope site manager Jason Wright said it had been a busy 18 months.
‘‘When we built the first plant (in 2017 following the 2014 fire that destroyed the old cheese plant), we ensured there was room to be able to expand, but we thought that could form part of our five to 10-year plan. We didn’t expect there’d be so much demand so quickly and we’d require additional capacity,’’ he said.
‘‘When you think that we have 150-plus contractors on a peak day, for a town of around 500, it’s just incredible ... northern Victoria is where it’s at.’’
While he said the investment had been great for the town, construction on a working cheese plant wasn’t without its issues.
‘‘(It’s been difficult) to run the marathon that is production while performing open-heart surgery on the plant,’’ Mr Wright said.
The site currently processes 1.3millionlitres of milk a day from about 260 local suppliers, producing 45000 metric tonnes of cheese for export, retail consumers and food service markets.
Mr Wright said the expansion of the plant would not only allow greater milk production, but also ensure the factory could be more agile and change production levels to target the most lucrative products for market.