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Milking the export dollar

13 March, 2006

Fifty years ago, Great Britain was just about the only overseas destination for Australian dairy products.

Business Victoria

However a small dairy cooperative in Victoria saw export possibilities in markets closer to home, and began to nurture links with new customers in Asia.

Their foresight paid off and today the co-operative, Murray Goulburn, exports more than $690m of dairy products to Japan and other Asian countries.

Murray Goulburn Co-operative’s company secretary, Ian Bird, says that part of their success comes from researching what their customers want and providing it.

“We work closely with our customers, find out what they want and then design and manufacture products to their individual tastes and specifications,” Bird says.

“For example, Murray Goulburn developed the original specification for mozzarella for the Japanese market.  This was based on the local requirements rather than the traditional recipe.”

This commitment to customer service has proved to be the basis of a successful formula. Murray Goulburn Co-operative today exports 360,000 tonnes of product to 110 countries annually, with a turnover of $1.1 billion from exports alone.

The Co-operative was formed in 1950 and represents 3000 farmer-members from Victoria, southern New South Wales and south-eastern South Australia.

“Our role as a co-op is to maximise the returns to our members – the farmers. That means constantly driving production efficiencies and market profitability,” Bird says.

Murray Goulburn Co-operative processes 3.6 billion litres of milk annually, which represents approximately 36% of Australia's total milk.

The milk is processed into a range of dairy products including butter, butter oil, dairy blends, casein, caseinate, milk powders and nutritional products sold in domestic and international markets.

“Murray Goulburn invests a great deal in research and development and the latest process technology and we have built up a broad range of products and a flexible production capacity to meet our customer requirements, ” Bird says.

“So from Victorian milk, we can produce cheese, butter or milk powder or we can produce sophisticated products using advanced scientific means. We can make nutritional food products that can be as simple as a particular mineral in a loaf of bread or as complex as a protein supplement for an elite athlete.”

This focus on development and innovation has seen the Co-operative become the largest exporter of processed food in Australia and the largest containerised user of the Port of Melbourne.

 “It is important that we keep investing in the best equipment and the latest technology to get the most efficient production that we can possibly can, in order to keep our markets growing and maximise the returns to our farmer members,” Bird says.

“We’ve had great support from the Victorian Government along the way, particularly where innovative processes and product development have been concerned.

“They recognise how much we put back into the industry and we’ve been able to participate in various State Government programs and initiatives over the years, which have provided support for us in particular and support for the industry in general.

“Murray Goulburn was also extremely proud to receive the 2005 Governor of Victoria Export Award for Agribusiness", he said.

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