Fonterra has announced the closure of a cheese plant in the New Zealand town of Kaikoura.

The facility’s output will be split between Fonterra’s Lichfield, Clandeboye, Stirling and Whareroa cheese plants. Fonterra said cheese production is up to 16% more cost effective at those sites than at Kaikoura.

The New Zealand dairy co-operative said the decision was made following the conclusion of staff consultations, which began earlier this month.

“While it is difficult for the people involved, we have a responsibility to our farmer shareholders and unit holders, and our customers to be as efficient as possible across our business, especially given the low milk price,” said Mark Leslie, director of Fonterra’s manufacturing in New Zealand.

When Fonterra announced earlier this month it was in talks with staff over the potential closure of the plant, it said the facility employed 22 full-time workers and typically operates between three to five months a year producing “a small volume of speciality cheese”.

Leslie said today (16 March): “Based on consultation, around half of the site staff have indicated their interest in redeployment elsewhere in the co-operative, and we are confident we will be able to meet their wishes. While we obviously would prefer to retain all of our staff, for those who are interested in moving on we will be providing assistance in their search for new roles outside of the business,” he added.

The final day for processing at the site is expected in mid-to-late April.

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