Darfield dryer still the largest

17:00, Aug 30 2014

Canterbury's grasp of the world's largest milk processing dryer title looks to be on safe ground as dairy giant Fonterra announces building plans for a big dryer at its Lichfield site in Waikato.

The co-operative revealed this week its new building plan would have a Lichfield dryer capable of processing up to 4.4 million litres a day, similar in size to the world's largest dryer at Darfield.

Darfield's D2 dryer has a design capacity of processing 4.5 million litres of milk a day for 30.8 tonnes of powder an hour and overshadows the world's previously largest dryer, E4 which produces 28t/hr, also owned by Fonterra, at its Edendale site in Southland.

That might be just be enough for Darfield to retain its world title, but the co-operative has been known to be conservative about the processing capacities of its dryers before commissioning and often this is not revealed until trials are completed.

Edendale is about to receive another upgrade as part of the Fonterra package to help meet global demand. A milk protein concentrate plant will be added that separates protein from skim milk and turns it into protein powder - capable of processing 1.1 million litres a day.

More new facilities will be a reverse osmosis plant to increase capacity on an existing dryer by 300,000 litres a day and an anhydrous milk fat plant capable of processing 550,000 litres of milk into cream a day. No extensions were announced for Darfield which had $500 million spent on its whole milk powder production facilities with exports bound for the Middle East, China and Southeast Asia.


An investment of $555m is being set aside for the joint Lichfield and Edendale project which will reassure farmers living with a forecast milk payment of $6 a kilogram of milksolids after a top payout last season. The expanded Lichfield site is due to be completed by August 2016.

Fonterra says the project will boost the co-operative's processing capability and give it more flexibility to maximise its production needs.

Chief executive Theo Spierings said Fonterra wanted to increase earnings by driving more milk into valuable markets globally and switching production from commodities to higher-margin products.

"By creating more options for our New Zealand operations we are better placed to be able to make the product mix that delivers the greatest returns to our farmers and meet the needs of our consumers and customers worldwide."

Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard said the Edendale and Lichfield investment, on top of the Pahiatua project opening next season, and the retention of the $6/kg milk payment forecast this week, was a huge vote of confidence for the dairy industry.

"It's going to be a great shot in the arm for jobs building this new capacity, let alone the 75 full-time jobs that will be generated plus many more downstream jobs that will flow from it. We're more than pleased to see this investment ahead of this season's peak-milk, given last year's buttermilk lakes represented a lost opportunity. Fonterra has recognised the need for more capacity with investments worth over half a billion dollars."

Hoggard said Fonterra's announcement that it was stepping up in China with a joint venture taking up to 20 per cent in the leading Chinese producer of infant formula Beingmate demonstrated its international reach.

Stage one of the new Darfield plant on 650-hectare grounds was completed in 2012 and included D1, a 15t/hr dryer initially thought to be capable of processing more than 2.2 million litres of milk into 380 tonnes of powder daily.

Darfield managers have since tweaked D1 to process nearly 2.5 million litres a day.

D2 was completed last year.

The Press