The essential sector

Knowing that you are able to walk into your local supermarket and buy what you want to feed yourself or your family and stock your pantry is something that we take for granted. Australia is fortunate that we make enough food to feed 75 million people, three times our population and that we have a strong and resilient food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector in our country.
COVID-19 has taught us all many things about our sense of community, our vulnerability and not to take this $127.1 billion food, beverage and grocery sector for granted. We realise now more than ever how essential it is.
When there was panic buying in early 2020, when shelves were stripped, this was equivalent to three Christmas buying periods all at once, on the same day, with no notice. Retailers and suppliers were caught unprepared, and shelves were emptied.
However, the 274,835 people who work every day to make the food, drinks and grocery items to ensure our shelves are stocked stepped up – they are our essential heroes. This sector went into overdrive straight away to help meet the runaway consumer demand, working 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to make the products that Australians were wanting. The shelves have not been empty since.
The supply chain was sorely tested. Speciality ingredients not made or found in Australia had to be acquired in other ways, or substitute supplies found, as borders closed.
Movement of goods across such an expansive country is always a challenge but the logistics sector met the challenge to move more products, more often. Workers in the factories, who are the most important asset to our sector, split shifts, implemented COVID-safe plans right away and socially distanced to help ensure transmission of COVID-19 was kept at bay from our essential sector. Everyone met the challenge to keep the supermarket shelves stocked.
Australia’s food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector works hard, and it has had to. Rising input costs and market challenges have long been an issue for the sector.
Companies in Australia want to invest in capital and invest in more jobs. They want to buy the exceptional, high-quality raw commodities from Australian farmers, transform them into products, and then send them around the country for Australians to enjoy. And they also want to export them around the world, capitalising on the international appreciation for the high quality and safe food products made here.
This is how traditional supply chains work but there needs to be certainty for business to invest. Certainty, through a stable economy, a skilled workforce and access to markets.
There also needs to be a responsive domestic market too, which will help foster innovation and business growth. As the world modernises and becomes highly automated, this sector strives to do so as well. This will help ensure the sector remains competitive on the world stage, innovation will flourish and jobs will grow.
To do this, the Australian Food and Grocery Council has called for the Federal Government to implement a Food, Beverage and Grocery Site Modernisation Program that provides short-term incentives for the food, beverage and grocery manufacturing industry. It does so by bringing forward investment in manufacturing plant infrastructure and equipment through an instant asset write off, or grants program for smaller investments, and targeted and efficient investment allowance for larger investments.
Without investing to improve efficiency and innovate, there is a real risk that businesses will either need to reduce the scale of their operations or move offshore.
Taking the jobs offshore would result in job losses at a time when we need to ensure job growth. While nearly 60 per cent of the sector’s jobs are in metropolitan areas, around 40 per cent, or 108,000 jobs, depend directly on this sector in regional Australia.
This sector is the backbone to regional Australia and the bond in so many communities – it is the heart of the community. The jobs and support services in so many country towns and regional centres rely on the economic contribution the sector brings through the wages it pays and the flow on to other businesses servicing the sector or the people who work in it.
In turn, the sector also supports the community through social, environmental and other outreach programs and direct contributions. This might include supporting the construction of local assets being built like a swimming pool, donating to local soup kitchens or getting involved in environmental programs like tree planting. This is happening right across the country with the support of this sector.
At the same time as strengthening our local economies and communities, the sector has seen a growth in exports. In 2020, food and beverage exports have increased 5.8 per cent, led by 7 per cent year-on-year increase in food product manufacturing.
Supply chain dependencies and priorities within countries changed with COVID-19 but recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data proved that COVID-19 hasn’t destroyed
our global trade. So, the trajectory of a growing and strong export market should weather the pandemic, even though it has definitely complicated things due to geopolitical developments.
A strong international trade system is crucial to maintaining global food security while Australia can benefit through local economic stimuli. Trade helps to stabilise food prices and supply volumes, which in turn improves social stability across the globe. During the 2007-08 food price crisis, restrictions by countries on exports of certain commodities led to significant increases in world food prices and intensified the impact on food insecurity and poverty. To date, we have not seen a repeat of this food price crisis and trade flows have continued, albeit with some delays at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While we like to know that we can walk into our supermarket and buy what we want on nearly every occasion, we also need to stop and realise what goes into ensuring we can do just that. Australians should be proud of the food, grocery and manufacturing sector here on our shores, for what it makes, supplies us with and the value it brings to our local economy and communities.

Chiko Roll helps keep 123 jobs in Bathurst

Simplot, the maker of the iconic Chiko Roll, has saved 75 jobs and created 48 more roles at its Bathurst  manufacturing plant.

Significant payroll tax support from the NSW Government helped make this outcome a reality and Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Skills and Small Business John Barilaro, and the Member for Bathurst Paul Toole today toured the site on Monday.

Barilaro said Simplot was facing the prospect of shutting down in 2013, when the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government stepped in to help the company keep its doors open and remain competitive in a tough sector.

“Bathurst was staring down the barrel of significant job losses,” Barilaro said.

“It would have been a tragedy for one of the biggest employers in Bathurst, let alone the producer of the iconic Chiko Roll, loved by so many, to close down.

“The success story of Simplot today is very different to the situation they faced five years ago.

“It is a tribute to Simplot which, with the right support from the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government, was able to continue to grow and invest in the Central West.

“This story is one that showcases how a good business and a good Government can come together to generate a great result for a local community.

“Simplot has transformed itself from an aging manufacturing site into a globally competitive food processing giant, not only saving jobs at the plant but increasing them,” he said.

Bathurst has been at the centre of food processing in Australia since vegetable canning commenced in 1929, and is the home to household’s brands such as Birds Eye frozen vegetables and the iconic Chiko Roll.

Hundreds lose jobs as Red Lea Chickens closes

Red Lea Chickens has been placed into voluntary administration and, as result, more than 500 workers have lost their jobs.

The company said in a statement posted on its website that it and certain related entities were placed into Voluntary Administration with McGrathNicol partners; Barry Kogan, Jason Preston and Kathy Sozou appointed as Administrators.

“Due to the financial position of the companies, we regret to advise that the Administrators are unable to trade the business and have no alternative other than to undertake an orderly wind-down of operations,” said the statement.

The sacked workers are from the company’s processing plant in the Western Sydney suburb of Blacktown as well as retail stores. The company has operated for over 60 years from this Blacktown site.

Craft brewer Brewpack rebrands, plans $35m facility

Brewpack and Stockade Brew are restructuring under the newly formed Tribe Breweries umbrella and will expand into a new facility in Goulburn.

The $35 million project will see Tribe increase production capacity to over 30 million litres p.a. (approximately 3.5m cartons annual production) with eventual potential for over 70 million litres p.a. (approximately 9m cartons annual capacity). The new state-of-the-art craft beverage production facility is slated to be the largest and most sophisticated of its kind in Australia, and will be completed in September of 2018. The facility will boast best in class brewing and packaging technology in cans, bottles and kegs.

While Stockade will continue to operate under its own brand and label, the Brewpack business will now be rolled under the Tribe Corporate umbrella.

Founded in 2012, Brewpack focused heavily on innovative and high-quality craft brewing of its own proprietary brands, as well as sharing its platform with contract brewing partners to further grow the craft industry.

Under the new umbrella, Tribe will also continue to grow its portfolio of craft products through its newly expanded production into premium cider, RTD’s and boutique non-alcoholic beverages as well as enhancing the breadth of offering through its Marrickville barrel room, launching in late April. This site will become the face and destination for Stockade customers to enjoy the distinctive range of craft beers, as well as experience tours and tastings. This site will focus on next generation beer styles, such as oak aged beers and fermented sours, making them the largest brewer of these beer styles in Australia.

Since its launch over five years ago, Tribe’s current manufacturing facility at Smeaton Grange has grown to well over 1 million cartons of production annually, undergone constant upgrades and modernisation programs and offers superior quality, flexibility and innovation. Furthermore, over the last three years the business has grown its production volumes on average by over 50 per cent a year.

New food manufacturing jobs for Melbourne’s north

Australian smallgoods manufacturer D’Orsogna is creating more than 100 new jobs, including those suitable for former auto workers, through its $61 million expansion in Mickleham.

Minister for Industry and Employment Ben Carroll turned the first sod at the site of the company’s new factory in the Merrifield Business Park, which will create more than 50 additional jobs during construction.

The expansion, made possible through the State Government’s Local Industry Fund for Transition, will include a new purpose-built facility that includes cooking, smoking, cooling, storing, slicing and packaging equipment.

The new facility will make use of the latest developments in processing and packaging technology, which will advance the company’s growth strategy in both domestic and export markets.

D’Orsogna is a family owned manufacturer of ham, bacon and other smallgoods, established in 1949. The company supplies Woolworths, Coles, Metcash and various food service businesses across Australia.

The food and fibre sector is Victoria’s biggest goods export sector, exporting nearly $12 billion annually. The sector contributes approximately five per cent of Victoria’s GSP and employs over 193,000 people.

The transition grants help businesses generate new investment and create jobs for retrenched workers in areas affected by the closure of car manufacturing.

The initiative has supported 38 projects so far, which are expected to create close to 1,000 jobs – more than 800 of which are suitable for former automotive workers.

“The D’Orsogna expansion is creating jobs, boosting the food and fibre sector and further cements Victoria as the home of manufacturing in Australia,” said Minister for Industry and Employment Ben Carroll.

“This massive expansion will boost the local economy and create much needed jobs in Melbourne’s North.”

 

 

Assistance for retrenched Murray Goulburn Workers

The Victorian Government is supporting retrenched dairy workers in the Indigo and Campaspe Shires affected by Murray Goulburn’s down-sizing.

Following recent discussions with impacted workers, Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford has announced $50,000 for each council to undertake community economic development planning.

The Government will also allocate $80,000 to allow the Victorian Planning Authority to develop a structure plan for the township of Tangambalanga.

The plan will be developed in close partnership with the community and will set out a clear direction for growth and development, boosting local job prospects and the economy.

The planning will identify priority actions to help manage the economic impacts of the facility closures, and develop investment attraction strategies to grow the local economy.

The Government will also extend the Rural Skills Connect Program by 12 months in the Murray Dairy region to support the community working groups of Tangambalanga (Kiewa) and Rochester.

These measures are a direct response to requests from the Indigo and Campaspe Shires, who are suffering from the staged closures of the Murray Goulburn manufacturing factories.

In addition to initiatives announced today, the Labor Government continues to support impacted dairy workers with its comprehensive $18 million dairy support package with industry.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford

“We know that workers and their families are facing challenging times and we will support these dairy communities right across the supply chain,” said Pulford.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure these communities have a successful and viable future.”

 

Cadbury cuts 50 jobs in Tasmania

Fifty workers from Cadbury’s Hobart factory will lose their jobs as the chocolate maker spends $75 million to upgrade the facility.

The job losses represent more than 10 per cent of its Hobart workforce. The company’s parent Mondelez said in a statement most of the job losses, which will happen before the end of the year, are likely to be voluntary redundancies.

“Our team here has worked hard to help us become more efficient, cut costs and improve our competitiveness and as a result, we’ve reduced the cost of converting raw materials into a block of chocolate by 12 per cent,” said Amanda Banfield, Area Vice President.

“But while progress has been made, increasing local and global competition, low domestic growth, rising costs, and Australia’s distance from overseas markets make it difficult to compete against the likes of European factories with lower costs.

“To remain competitive, we need to improve our conversion costs by 30 per cent, plus continue to raise the bar as competition increases further.”

The company said it will realise more efficiencies through investment in new technologies, equipment and automation, plus increase the skills and capabilities of its people and ensure its teams are the right size.

The $75 million upgrade will take place over the next 18 months.

 

Owner denies closure of iconic XXXX brewery

Japanese beverage company Lion has denied claims that the XXXX Brisbane brewery will be closing, following reports that the facility would be shut due to pay disputes.

Lion spokesperson Dan Holland has assured that the brewery will not be closing and is in fact looking to hire five more people.

“There are no job losses or changes,” he said in a statement, adding that the company was “actually hiring five more permanent people”, not firing workers.

“In fact, there will be pay offers on the table – on top of the best pay and work conditions in brewing in Queensland,” said Holland.

However, United Voice coordinator Damien Davies claimed workers at the Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Milton had received threats that the plant would close if negotiations to eliminate full-time jobs in favour of labour-hire, part-time and casual positions were not successful.

Referring to the five new positions which Lion has claimed to be hiring for, Davies has alleged that these are part-time positions which will replace full-time roles. He has called upon Lion to put its claims in writing and commit to full-time jobs in its Queensland brewery.

Calls for caution after 40,000 manufacturing jobs boost in Australia

A warning has been fired to Australia’s manufacturing industry despite a bump in job numbers over the past financial year.

Around 40,000 new manufacturing jobs – recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – were presented in a recently published paper at the Manufacturing Matters conference held at Parliament House, in Canberra, on Wednesday.

Co-authored by Jim Stanford and Tom Swann at the Centre for Future Work and the Australia Institute, the paper Manufacturing: a moment of opportunity offers promise of a brighter future for the industry in Australia.

However, despite many reasons for optimism being expressed throughout the event, there were also calls for caution.

Speaking at the conference, South Australia senator Nick Xenophon was very welcoming of a jobs spike but rallied for a sense of perspective.

“There is something seriously wrong where in a country such as Australia – one of the most advanced, developed nations in the world – our manufacturing sector has shrunk from 12 per cent a decade ago to just over six per cent,” Xenophon said.

“The fact that employment, according to the paper, has increased in the past year and that manufacturing exports and profits are on the rise is very welcoming. But I am cautious that we should consider these a trend.

“We need to be wary because ABS are not forecasting figures and are not looking at the pending job losses in the automotive sector and all of the follow-on effects of that, for which we are ill-prepared as a nation.”

manufacturing-matters-picThe paper reviews the qualitative features as to why manufacturing is a “strategically important sector” and argues that the industry should be an “active target for policy” within Australian leadership.

Between speeches and Q&As, senators Arthur Sinodinos (pictured top) and Kim Carr – Australia’s industry and shadow industry ministers respectively – were invited to join the conversation.

“Let’s look at the record,” Sinodinos said. “The manufacturing industry survived the resources boom. Yes, there was job shedding and there were issues but it has survived and is still here today.

“In the last 12 months, employment has grown and the report you are putting out here is illustrating the way the sector is growing and that there are some really good prospects ahead.

“What that tells me is that the sector is resilient. It tells me that the sector sees a future and that, in the government, our role is to back the sector in doing it.”

(Images:  David Howe)

Rugged panel PCs for food makers

B&R has expanded its range of automation-ready Panel PCs with a new series of widescreen formats ranging from 7″ WVGA to 24″ Full HD.

These Panel PCs are suited for use in harsh environments and are the perfect visualisation devices for Box PCs while at the same time offering easy and flexible mounting options.

With a slender design, all models are available with a single-touch or multi-touch screen and connecting the panels to a PC unit turns them into a full-fledged PC, complete with scalable processing power.

The core component of the panel is the widescreen, which ranges from 7″ WVGA to 24″ Full HD, while the panels also have the possibility of adding a modular SDL/DVI receiver that turns the panels into operator terminal.

With SDL3 digital signal transmission technology with standard Ethernet cables, it is even possible for the panels to bridge more than 100 meters between terminal and PC.

The Panel PCs offer scalable computing power by using anything from Intel Atom processors all the way up to the powerful Core i7 family.

The modular platform – consisting of the actual panel, SDL/SDL3 receiver and PC unit are designed to deliver a considerable reduction in maintenance costs, and in the event of an upgrade, there is no need to replace the entire Panel PC.

Added to this, with its uniform interface, B&R has established a flexible system platform for any future and expanded PC architectures.

Since the display and PC components are separate, it is also possible to upgrade the internal PC technology while at the same time, keeping the original display unit.

Freeze dried food could be the answer to food waste

According to a story on ABC Online, freeze-dried food could be the solution to saving billions of dollars worth of wasted produce.

Australians dispose of $10 billion worth of food every year and according to Foodwise, with $2.76 billion of that is fresh produce.

Queensland food processor Freeze Dry Industries has fast become an outlet for local farmers looking to make money off crop that would otherwise go in the bin.

“Freeze-drying is a very scientific process, which has origins with NASA as space food,” CEO Michael Buckley told the ABC.

“My inspiration came from the pure joy of the technology in attacking waste, because I hate the thought of us throwing out beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables.”

However freeze drying is not cheap, with freeze-drying machines starting from $300,000,” he said.

Buckley told the ABC he was convinced that consumers are prepared to pay more for the experience of eating a freeze-dried snack.

For farmers, the option of earning money from a waste product, despite the cost, is an incentive for many growers.

Despite the challenges, Buckley expects the interest in freeze-dried fruits to increase, largely driven by demand from the likes of “the health food industry,’ he said.

New supply chain guides to help businesses avoid worker exploitation

The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched new tools to help prevent the exploitation of workers in contracted labour supply chains.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said her agency developed the materials as it was still seeing too many cases where vulnerable workers were being ripped-off as complex contracting arrangements allowed dodgy operators to infiltrate labour supply chains.

“We have seen case after case of people such as cleaners, security guards, agriculture and horticulture workers and trolley collectors being forced to accept sub-standard rates of pay through long and complicated contracting arrangements while the beneficiaries of that labour who sit atop the contracting chain, normally a large business, have no oversight of the unlawful practices occurring in their networks,” James said.

“The community expects large reputable businesses to make sure the workers in their contracting chain are being paid appropriately, even when that business may not be the direct employer of the workers.

James said that the four new guides are intended to help other businesses monitor and manage their contract arrangements to help make sure every single worker in their contracting networks is being paid fairly and appropriately.

Accessible here, the new resources are:

  • Guide to labour contracting: for help on how to select a potential contractor and identify if they are complying with workplace laws
  • Guide to monitoring your labour contracting: for help on mapping existing contractors and subcontractors, examining compliance and addressing any problems
  • Guide to self-auditing your business: for information on how to conduct a general self-audit of your business to ensure you’re complying with workplace laws
  • Guide to monitoring your labour contracting for small business: checks for small business owners to minimise your risk of hiring a non-compliant contractor.

The four practical guides have been developed with the assistance of experts in the field of supply chain management and will help businesses monitor and manage their contract relationships.

Image: Fair Work Ombudsman

Goodman Fielder delays WA factory closure

Food manufacturer Goodman Fielder has delayed the closure of its factory in Western Australia, due to issues with its supply agreement with George Weston Foods.

Earlier this year, Goodman Fielder announced plans to cease production at its Malaga, Perth plant by April 28. The plan was to enter into a supply agreement with George Weston Foods under an agreement which covered packaged bread from brands Wonder White, Helga’s, Molenberg, Lawson’s and Mighty Soft. This was to commence on May 1, with 75 staff to be made redundant.

However, Goodman Fielder has told staff at the Malaga plant that the closure and supply agreement have been postponed until July 1 due to lack of clearance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC is currently evaluating the impact of the factory closure and supply agreement on competition in the WA bread market. The group has received submissions from other local bakers and food services companies that are opposed to the deal, according to industry sources.

Under the proposed agreement, George Weston will manufacture 98 per cent of the Malaga factory’s production, with the remaining two per cent (which covers the Lawson’s brand) to be produced by independent Perth baker, Bovell’s.

Goodman Fielder has advised its staff to take annual leave or unpaid leave until the ACCC makes its decision. Some staff promised redundancy fear they will not be paid, according to Australian Financial Review.

It’s full steam ahead for Woolies

FMCG giant Woolworths has posted its strongest sales growth in seven years- with sales rising 4.5 per cent in the March quarter, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review (AFR).

This figure was well above market forecasts between 3.2 per cent and 3.6 per cent and compared is the strongest quarter for Woolworths supermarkets since the first quarter 2010.

According to Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci, “We are pleased with the continued improvement in Australian food sales in the third quarter, particularly the more stable and predictable nature of our daily and weekly sales,” he said.

Banducci also said that he wanted to build on this figure well into the next financial year.

“We are focused on making sure we continue our progress in rebuilding sustainable sales momentum for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018,” he told the AFR.

Jobs, factories and profits all go as MG battens down the hatches

In a sign of the impact the falling milk price is having on the food sector, food company Murray Goulburn (MG) said it will be closing down factories and reducing its farmgate milk price in a bid to address its “cost base, improve efficiencies and ultimately increase earnings.”

This will include closure of MG’s manufacturing facilities at Edith Creek, Rochester and Kiewa, forgiveness of the Milk Supply Support Package (MSSP), total write-downs of up to $410 million, and a dividend suspension.

The factory closures, the company said, are expected to impact some 360 employees while at the same time delivering a net financial benefit of $40 million to $50 million per annum. Overall, MG said that it anticipates a net financial benefit in FY18 from the closures of approximately $15 million.

However, the dairy company said that it needed to spend $60 million of capital expenditure to enable the closures, which will be largely funded by maintenance capital expenditure no longer required at the sites.

MG also announced that it will write off farmers loans incurred in the MSSP, with all future repayments of the MSSP which were to recommence from July 2017 ceasing, meaning the company will write-down $148 million.

Due to weaker trading conditions, the FY17 forecast available FMP of $4.70 per kilogram milk solids is expected to be fall to $4.60 per kilogram milk solids.

The company said that it remained “committed to paying a FY17 average FMP of $4.95 per kilogram milk solids.”

In order to protect against any potential further losses this financial year, MG has provided access of up to $30 million of additional debt funded milk payments, so as to maintain the forecast FMP of $4.95 per kilogram milk solids up until the end of this financial year, the company said.

Australian obesity increases despite lower sugar intake

A new study has found that despite consumers’ decreased sugar intake, Australian obesity rates are higher than ever.

In recent years, scientists have linked excessive sugar consumption with obesity.

This has led to a number of initiatives to decrease added or refined sugars in Australia’s food and beverages.

The nation has recently experienced the biggest increase in adult obesity levels since 1980 (16 per cent). The number of overweight or obese Australians is now 63 per cent, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

This is despite the fact that in Australia, the per capita availability of added or refined sugars and sweeteners was shown to have fallen by 16 per cent between 1980 and 2011, according to the study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Specifically, in national dietary surveys in 1995 and 2011-2012, added sugar intake saw a marked decline in men (18 per cent), but little to no decline in women.

However, during the same period, the proportion of sugar-sweetened beverage intake (including 100 per cent juice) fell 10 per cent in men and 20 per cent in women.

The most significant changes were seen in children aged 2-18 (who currently have an overweight/obesity rate of 25 per cent).

According to the study, data from national grocery sales indicated that per capita added-sugars intakes derived from carbonated soft drinks decreased from 26 per cent between 1997 and 2011, with similar trends for non-carbonated beverages.

However, Australia’s childhood obesity rate has also been steadily increasing over the years.

The study suggests that the link between sugar consumption and obesity may not be as strong as scientists initially thought.

Fonterra introduces instantly traceable baby formula info

According to a story in stuff.co.nz, Fonterra has introduced new traceability technology allowing shoppers to instantly check the authenticity of infant formula products while they are still on the shelfs.

The Quick Read (QR) codes have been initially put on the co-operative’s infant formula brand Anmum in New Zealand stores, said the story.

Each baby formula can has a unique QR code when scanned connects the buyer to a webpage with information and a batch number verifying that it is authentic.

Consumers can also scan cans at any stage after they have bought it to get up to date information about the product.

By the end of this year, Fonterra says it will have 90 per cent of its global plants with traceability data electronically connected, with the remaining 10 per cent to be completed by 2019.

WA food stocks hit after roads damaged by flooding

Agriculture and food minister Alannah MacTiernan has called for road repairs in Western Australia after the region was hit by flooding.

She has identified roads in Ravensthorpe, 540km south-east of Perth, as a priority after the collapse of the South Coast Highway has caused stock losses and damage to fences and top soil.

According to a report in The West Australian, MacTiernan said farmers had lost between 5 and 7 per cent of their arable land after the floods.

“It was important to see that damage that had occurred,” she said. “It’s pretty severe.”

Funding is expected to be reimbursed to primary producers which has up to $25,000 after the council collates more data of the damage caused. 

“The Shire wants early sign-off on the ability to use day labour,” MacTiernan continue.

“It was made very clear that the Shire needs to get moving on the roads. We understand time is of the essence, we certainly don’t want to prevent planting season.

“Until those roads are repaired, we can’t get the gear in.”

Patties CEO says more takeovers on the table

Australia’s ready-meal sector will surpass $1 billion in the near future and a shift towards healthier eating is playing a major part, it has been claimed.

Paul Hitchcock, CEO of Patties Foods, has said the company is seeking new acquisitions with projections showing the huge growth in the market. 

Having recently acquired Australian Wholefoods, he also believes the sector is now providing far more than TV dinners” and told the AFR it will grow by more than 10 per cent annually.

“The category is still relatively new,” Hitchcock told the AFR. “It’s trending toward $1 billion but we’re not there yet.

The chilled ready meals category grew by 13 per cent in the past year for the retailer “as customers continue to look for convenient and affordable meal solutions”, according to a Woolworths spokesman.

“Busy lifestyles mean consumers are attracted to convenience meals by their relatively low cost, ease of use and variety,” a spokesman for Coles added.

Patties Foods was acquired by the provate equity firm Pacific Equity Partners for $231 million last year.

Chinese wine company searches for Australian vineyards

The third biggest wine company in China is planning a $80 million winery based in Australia, which it hope will rival exporters to the Chinese market.

Weilong Grape Wine Company is proposing to expand its Grand Dragon brand to Mildura, only several kilometres from the Karadoc winery in north-west Victoria.

The move presents “one of the largest infrastructure investments in the $4 billion wine industry in the past decade”, according to a report in the AFR.

But it must first overcome roadblocks to get the project up and running after objections were submitted by rivals and a ongoing planning issue including Telstra.

Bruno Zappia, Weilong’s general manager of Australian operations, Bruno Zappia, said he was confident any red tape would be resolved soon so that the 80,000-tonne winery would be in production in time for the 2019 vintage.

“There will be a combination of our own vineyards and external grapegrowers,” Zappia added.