Spread of the dairy action
We expressed disappointment at the region's employment statistics last month, after Goodman Fielder confirmed it will close its Huttons/Kiwi Bacon factory in Frankton and 125 jobs will be lost.
This week has brought news of about 100 jobs being created by Fonterra's $120 million UHT-milk-processing site at Waitoa, to open in the next month or so.
About 70 staff are already working on the plant's testing process. Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sandra Perry was among those who welcomed the development, noting that the factory contributes to the Waikato dairy cluster. She enthused that "food and protein is what the Waikato region should be about".
The new plant is adding to the capability to deliver those goods while opening up employment prospects for good measure. Waikato isn't the only region benefiting from the dairy industry's burgeoning growth. Earlier this month Fonterra announced a $32 million expansion of its slice-on-slice cheese capacity at its plant in Eltham, Taranaki.
News of these developments coincided with the Government's release of new figures which suggest agriculture, forestry and fishing exports will be $4.9 billion higher this year than the $36.4b originally forecast for the year to June 30, 2014. Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy was pleased to see dairy sector returns forecast to rise by $2.7b in 2013-14 and a $1.2b increase in meat exports during the same time.
The agricultural boom came into considerations when NZX chief executive Tim Bennett commented on the sharemarket's strong performance in the past two years.
The success of the Fonterra Shareholders Fund and this year's float of Synlait Milk showed that investors could successfully gain access to what was previously the preserve of private investors, he said.
Investment in the processing facilities, particularly in dairy, could result in more investment opportunities for private investors during 2014 and 2015.
The big challenge at the NZX was how to get other agricultural companies to list in what had historically been a privately owned sector, he said. We wish him well in meeting that challenge.
While overseas customers get their slices of cheese, it would be great to see Kiwi investors other than farmers getting a slice of the opportunities and rewards.