AN AMBITIOUS plan to develop milk processing facilities at Cohuna is gaining momentum.
Local business interests are behind a proposal to facilitate the construction of a multi-million dollar processing plant on a section of the Keely Industrial Estate on the town’s south-eastern outskirts.
Approval and design work is well advanced on a plant to process 300 million litres of milk per annum, including a drying plant for export and domestic production and a possible butter plant.
Detailed analysis is being undertaken by specialists in milk processing plant design and waste treatment to ensure the facility meets the latest emission and energy standards.
Local businessmen, John Mawson and Jason Wright, have set up No Bull Milk Processing Pty Ltd and are the proponents of the estimated $130 million plant.
Mr Mawson, who manages the entirely separate Mawson’s concrete and quarrying business, said the project had advanced to the stage of obtaining quotes for construction and that feedback from local farmers was very positive.
‘‘I can understand some people being cynical given that this project has been proposed before and that the amount of money needed is well beyond Jason and my resources but the closure of the Murray Goulburn plant at Rochester has exaggerated the need for farmers to have some place close to have their milk processed efficiently,’’ he said.
‘‘Rather than have their milk sent 120 kilometres away, they can have it processed here and that will generate local jobs and help ensure that farmers in this area remain profitable.
‘‘But from the meetings with farmers we have had it is clear the Cohuna factory will have to pay very competitive milk prices to be viable, otherwise it’s not a goer.
‘‘So long as farmers can get secure payment at competitive prices they say that they would prefer to supply a local plant, it just makes sense to maximise the expertise and resources we have in this area. We have a highly productive dairy sector, feed suppliers, veterinarians, AI (artificial insemination) … We have the infrastructure, a top quality product and we have the know-how.’’
A number of domestic and international enterprises have expressed interest in building and operating the plant.
Mr Mawson said the scope of the project would involve attracting milk from farmers in a broad region.
‘‘It’s not just for around Cohuna,’’ he said.
International commodity consultants have compiled financial forecasts and budgets for No Bull Milk Processing Pty Ltd, and are working with the support of Gannawarra Shire Council economic development manager, Roger Griffiths.
Mr Griffiths said the shire had been involved in fortnightly meetings with key stakeholders and Regional Development Victoria had provided introductions to key infrastructure connections.
Mr Mawson said he hoped that the plant would be operational by the second half of next year.