Dairy plant equipment sold

SOME of the final pieces of dairy equipment still housed at Murray Gouburn Co-Operative's Leitchville factory have been sold.

Suppliers were notified on Monday of the co-operative's decision to sell the plant's cheese production line - a move welcomed by residents more than seven years after the factory ceased production.

"I would … like to inform you that an agreement has been reached to sell the cheese production line at Leitchville," the co-operative's managing director, Ari Mervis said in the letter.

"Longer term we do not intend for the site to remain dormant and are considering future options for the land and buildings, including a possible sale. 

"Our focus is to maximise value to MG, our suppliers and stakeholders."

The Gannawarra Times understands the multi-million dollar cheese production line has been sold to New Zealand processor, Open Country Dairy. 

It will be a massive logistical exercise to remove the production line, which sits four stories high and was assembled on-site. 

The sale comes after a consortium of investors, represented by Cohuna resident Andrew Gibbs, announced a plan in August last year to purchase the factory and produce cheese under licence to Murray Goulburn. 

Discussions between Mr Gibbs and Murray Goulburn took place, but broke down.

At the time a Murray Goulburn spokesperson said the co-operative had no plans to sell the factory.

"Leitchville remains a strategic asset for MG and we do not intend to sell the plant and equipment which are still in excellent order. This includes a high quality cheese production line which has the potential to be reused in the future if required," the spokesperson said. 

Mead dairy farmer and Murray Goulburn supplier, Di Bowles welcomed news of the sale. 

"I think it's good that they're selling assets they don't need, which I see as very proactive management," she said. 

"It's a good opportunity for the factory to be used for something useful for the community." 

The factory was originally a Kraft facility producing packaged sliced cheese.

It was later purchased by Murray Goulburn and produced cheddar cheese, before closing in 2010 at the expense of 80 local jobs. 

The removal of the cheese production line, following the relocation of other equipment including coolroom motors and milk storage in the years since its closure, makes it unlikely the factory will ever be used again for dairy production. 

It is essentially now a warehouse space and a significant investment would be required to turn it into a manufacturing or processing facility. 

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