French cheese co-operative, the Fromagerie de l'Ermitage, is to invest around EUR60m (US$79.7m) over three years to increase production.

The firm will invest in capacity at its plant in Bulgnéville, eastern France and in building a drying tower for whey.

The investment is to meet growing demand for the group's cheeses in the EU, North America and Russia, compensating for flat domestic demand, a spokesperson said.

"This investment programme is essential if we are to remain competitive and we are looking for support from the public sector being unable to finance it alone,"
he said.

Fromagerie de l'Ermitage, which employs around 1,000 staff, posted a 4% increase in 2012 turnover to EUR335m.

Roughly half of sales are generated by soft cheeses and the other half by cooked and uncooked pressed cheeses.